View Full Version : Plan to Address Homelessness

November 22nd, 2003, 01:55 AM
November 22, 2003

Mayor Seeks 10-Year Plan to Address Homelessness


The city is putting together a plan to end chronic homelessness in the next 10 years, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said yesterday.

Though he praised the city's extensive shelter system as compassionate, the mayor said it was not enough.

"We find ourselves at a painful impasse," Mr. Bloomberg said, in an announcement that was long on philosophy and short on details. "We keep focusing on crisis management, on how to deal with who shows up that night. It is time to look at causes and see if we can't prevent people from showing up at all."

The announcement comes as the city's shelters are bursting with a record 40,000 homeless adults and children.

Since Mr. Bloomberg took office, his commissioner of homeless services, Linda I. Gibbs, has sharply increased the rate at which families leave shelters for permanent housing and has introduced new accountability provisions for shelter providers and for the homeless themselves.

But perhaps the most direct inspiration for establishing a committee to end chronic homelessness in the city comes from Washington, where President Bush's Interagency Council on Homelessness has the goal of ending the problem nationwide in a decade.

The council has been encouraging localities throughout the country to create such plans, and many other cities have started similar planning processes.

Washington is mostly seeking to end street homelessness among chronic substance abusers and people who are mentally ill, but the New York plan will take a broader approach because it must deal with many homeless families, Commissioner Gibbs said.

She outlined four basic goals that the task force on planning will use as guideposts, including ending street homelessness and focusing more resources on preventing homelessness. What this is most likely to mean in concrete terms is a shift in budget priorities away from a roughly $580 million-a-year shelter system.

"Since 1999, this agency's budget has grown by $244 million," Ms. Gibbs said. "We need to look at those considerable resources and see how we could spend them more wisely, toward supportive housing, rental assistance and permanent community."

The announcement of the planning process was met with skepticism by some advocates for the city's homeless, who argued that there was already ample evidence on how to solve the problem, mainly by providing more money for supportive housing for the mentally ill and low-income housing for indigent families. The cause could be better served by an infusion of funds than by the creation of another planning group, they said.

"The time for study is long past," said Mary Brosnahan Sullivan, executive director of the Coalition for the Homeless. "We have a proven track record of what works. We desperately need more capital dollars for bricks and mortar, and we need more resources, beginning with the federal government."

City officials said that advocates for the homeless would be included in the planning process, but that the main considerations in developing the steering committee were to involve people from the private and nonprofit sectors to work with government. The co-chairmen for the planning group are Lilliam Barrios-Paoli, senior vice president at the United Way of New York; William C. Rudin, the president of Rudin Management Company; and Peter Madonia, the mayor's chief of staff.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

TLOZ Link5
November 22nd, 2003, 11:57 AM
Sounds optimistic.

February 21st, 2004, 01:20 AM
February 21, 2004

Homelessness Census Going Outside Manhattan


On Monday night, as the hour reaches midnight, some 2,000 volunteers will spread out across New York City for the second annual census of the homeless. This year, volunteers will go beyond Manhattan's byways and subway stations and will attempt to count people living on the streets of Brooklyn and Staten Island as well.

Volunteers will not actually survey all of this territory, but will instead comb much smaller areas on foot, and the number of people they find will serve as the basis of an estimate for the whole population. Because of this unscientific guesswork and because volunteers will not be looking in abandoned buildings or subway cars, nonprofit groups that advocate on behalf of the homeless say they believe the survey will undercount the street homeless.

"We continue to feel that the flawed methodology serves to mislead the public on the true scope of the problem,'' said Patrick Markee, a senior policy analyst for the Coalition for the Homeless.

But Linda I. Gibbs, the commissioner of the city's Department of Homeless Services, says understanding as much as possible about the extent and location of the street homeless is key to reducing their numbers. "What you measure is what you manage,'' she said, "and it is critical to repeat the count so we can understand how strategies that we adopted in response to the knowledge gained last year are having the effect of reducing the number of people on the street.''

Ms. Gibbs said that last year's survey, for example, which identified 1,763 people living on the streets of Manhattan, taught the department that the homeless do not congregate more densely in high-traffic areas like Pennsylvania Station and Union Square Park, as the city had thought. As a result, she said, the city has advised its homeless outreach teams to make their efforts more widespread and to check less-populated places.

Attempting to track street homeless in the other boroughs poses different challenges than in Manhattan, said Jim Anderson, the spokesman for the Department of Homeless Services, because they include more parkland and more single-family dwellings, and as a result are expected to have different patterns of street living. Staten Island, for example, has tent camps in wooded areas.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

February 26th, 2004, 11:12 PM
February 27, 2004

Advocates for Homeless Offer Cautious Praise for City Changes


Straining against the tide of record levels of homelessness in New York, the Bloomberg administration is trying a variety of new approaches to address the problem, many significantly different from those the city has followed for two decades.

In the past few years, the number of homeless families in the shelter system has risen significantly; more than 9,000 families are in need of shelter each night, an increase of almost 50 percent since 2001.

The administration's new policies have included trying to get people out of shelters and into apartments, putting millions of dollars into prevention programs, and seeking to end the litigation concerning the city office where homeless families enter the shelter system. Those steps and others are winning cautious praise from experts and advocates on homelessness, who see in them a chance to reshape the approach to a problem that has proven vexing.

"This really is a new way of looking at how you manage and respond to a homeless crisis and community that does not have the resources to respond," said Frederick Shack, senior vice president of client services at Help USA, one of the largest providers of shelters.

By increasing a supply of subsidized apartments, the administration moved 3,500 families into permanent housing during the last fiscal year, the largest number in the 11-year history of the Department of Homeless Services, and a 57 percent increase over the previous fiscal year. Though the list of families waiting for apartments remains long, the movement of such large numbers has left many advocates hopeful.

Last summer was the first time since 1998 that no families slept on the floor of the Emergency Assistance Unit in the Bronx during its busiest season, even though the number of families in the system - 9,097 as of Wednesday - is roughly double what it was 1998.

For the first time in two decades, the courtrooms that have served as battlegrounds between the city and advocates for homeless families have remained quiet for over a year. The protracted court battles have been replaced with a Special Master's Panel charged with resolving immediate problems within the shelter system.

For decades, there have been courtroom battles over matters like where homeless families sleep at night and what amenities must be available to them, but now the panel is also looking at the entire problem and suggesting long-term reforms to the system.

"It really is about solving the problem, understanding its causes and helping people get access and long-term solutions to the problem," Mr. Shack said. The moratorium on courtroom battles alone, he said, has "the potential to alter the entire system."

In many ways, the administration's approach to homelessness reflects the management template that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has placed over much of city government since he took office in 2002.

He has forced agencies that have traditionally worked independently, if not as adversaries, to attack problems as a group, supervised closely by one of his key aides. Policy decisions are shaped more by data and spreadsheets than by ideology. Mr. Bloomberg also makes ample use of private sector help, often with government subsidies. And, allergic to litigation, Mr. Bloomberg has charged his corporation counsel to avoid it.

Shortly after taking office, Mr. Bloomberg ordered his chief of staff, Peter L. Madonia, to oversee a broad initiative to tackle some of the most intractable problems in the homelessness system. Mr. Madonia began to oversee weekly meetings of the commissioners, or their deputies, of the agencies that have a hand in the issue, including the public housing authority, the tax department, the Human Resources Administration and the mayor's corporation counsel. The group meets every Friday morning, and commissioners are expected to come with new data, suggestions or solutions.

The New York City Housing Authority, consequently, devised three plans to move more homeless families into apartments. One was to release more empty apartments during midsummer, when need is the greatest, and by pushing homeless families up the list above others waiting for apartments. Another was to increase the number of vouchers for Section 8, the federal rent-subsidy program, available to landlords who provide housing to low-income residents. Over the last two years, the city has been able to obtain 12,000 new vouchers for Section 8 housing, up from 2,700 in the 2002 fiscal year.

At the same time, the housing authority tried to make it more palatable for landlords to accept Section 8 vouchers by addressing long-standing complaints about the system, including cumbersome paperwork and slow city reimbursement.

As a result, said the chairman of the housing authority, Tino Hernandez, "In 2003 we had the most rentals in the history of the housing authority - 11,000 units." However, the important Section 8 program may be threatened by the federal government's plan to reduce the number of those vouchers.

Soon after the Bloomberg administration took office, it sought an agreement with Legal Aid lawyers to end litigation over the Emergency Assistance Unit, the office in the Bronx where homeless families report to enter the system, and instead put in place the Special Master's Panel to mediate issues and help the city reorganize its overall approach.

The group first came out with recommendations about preventing homelessness, something that was never addressed in the myriad of court cases that dictated city policies on homelessness for years. The administration has committed millions of dollars to a pilot program in five neighborhoods to prevent homelessness.

Within a month, the panel is expected to present recommendations that would shift how homeless families enter the shelter system, perhaps eliminating the Emergency Assistance Unit in its present form, which would be the most radical change in the system since homelessness first became a major city problem more than two decades ago.

"The idea was to remove everything from the courts and glare of publicity and work quietly with a special master panel," said Michael A. Cardozo, the city's corporation counsel.

The mayor has not abandoned the courts completely. Last year, at the urging of his commissioners, the administration dug in and fought in court to allow the city to evict disruptive residents from shelters and to force families that refuse multiple housing offers to move into an apartment of the city's choosing.

"We felt we had the legal right to do it, and Linda felt from the policy point of view it was very important," Mr. Cardozo said, referring to Linda Gibbs, the commissioner for the Department of Homeless Services, who tellingly has a pair of boxing gloves hanging in her office.

The city is also for the first time holding shelter operators to performance standards that are similar to private sector contracts and will reduce payments to operators who do not meet the standards.

"They are very focused on looking at the data that exists and looking at sensible solutions," said Lauren Pareti, the executive director for the Council on Homeless Policies and Services, which represents shelter operators.

At the same time, she said, shelter operators had other complaints, arguing the administration has done a poor job of updating its records to reflect improvements, and keeping payments flush with rising costs. She noted that the city budget for overhead has not gone up in 12 years.

Some advocates for the homeless, while crediting the administration with increasing subsidized housing, feel the city's victories may not do enough to handle the rise in the number of homeless families.

Further, the legal ceasefire could end. Steven Banks, a lawyer for Legal Aid, hinted that he might skirt the Special Master's Panel and sue the city over the policy of separating married couples within the shelter system.

The city and the panel are both hoping to avoid such piecemeal litigation. "The reality is that we are looking for real structural improvements, not doing patchwork on a single issue," said Gail Nayowith, a member of the panel.

Mr. Bloomberg has frequently cited homeless services as one of his agency's greatest successes so far. "I think the mayor has set the tone," said Ms. Gibbs. "It is clear to me that he expects individual agencies to identify the things they need to work on and do it. It is a permission, but also a responsibility."

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

March 8th, 2004, 05:44 AM
March 2, 2004

Children in Shelters Hit Hard by Asthma


A rare health study of homeless children shows that about half of those entering the New York City shelter system have asthma, a finding that underscores the increased health risk to the most vulnerable population and the challenges faced by those who serve them.

Asthma is on the rise nationally, and experts have long known that children in poor, urban areas are most likely to suffer from it, largely because of lung irritants like cockroach feces, secondhand smoke, diesel soot, mold and dust. Researchers have found that as many as 25 percent of children living in some of New York's poorest neighborhoods have asthma.

An even higher rate among homeless children may not be surprising at first glance, though the authors of this study - from Columbia University, the Children's Health Fund, Montefiore Medical Center and Albert Einstein College of Medicine - say they were taken aback by the numbers.

But the report, published in the March issue of The Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, offers an unusual glimpse of the added health risks to people living chaotic lives and trying to control a disease that requires constant monitoring and medication. Publication comes as a growing number of New Yorkers are seeking shelter.

The report finds that 90 percent of the homeless children with severe, persistent asthma were not taking the anti-inflammatory medicine needed to control it. Even among those whose families knew they had asthma because it had previously been diagnosed, 80 percent of those with severe, persistent asthma were not on medication. And almost half of all the cases had not been diagnosed before the study.

The study surveyed 740 children as their families entered three unidentified homeless shelters in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. The researchers asked parents questions about possible asthma symptoms or a previous diagnosis, and gave a physical examination to any child who appeared to have the disease.

They found that 40 percent of the children had clear-cut cases of asthma: either a previous diagnosis by a doctor or persistent symptoms, categorized as moderate to severe, at the time researchers saw them. When milder symptoms were included, they found that 50 percent of the children had symptoms when examined, and that 54 percent had a prior diagnosis or current symptoms, or both.

"As far as we know, these rates are the highest documented anywhere," said Dr. Irwin Redlener, one of the report's authors. "We searched the literature and couldn't find anything even close to that."

Asthma, a potentially fatal constriction of the airways, is a leading cause of hospitalization among children and causes about 200 deaths a year in New York City. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta has estimated that 6 percent of children nationally have the disease, and it is on the rise.

The research on homeless children was done in 1998 and 1999 but not published until now because of a lengthy peer review process. Dr. Redlener, an associate dean at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia and president of the Children's Health Fund, said further research in 2002 and 2003 found the same overall rate of asthma symptoms, 50 percent, but a lower rate of children with moderate to severe symptoms, perhaps indicating better management.

In those intervening years, the population of the city's shelter system has ballooned. In recent weeks, the family shelters have housed more than 9,000 families with more than 16,000 children each night, the most in the system's two decades and nearly double the numbers from the late 1990's.

"Even if, child for child, the problem is a little less severe, there are so many more homeless children now that the problem has only grown," Dr. Redlener said.

Yet advocates for the homeless say little is known about the health of homeless people because few academic studies have been done, and no one makes a systematic effort to collect information in the shelters and elsewhere.

Health care for people in shelters is an inconsistent patchwork, much like the shelter system itself. There are about 160 family shelters around the city - some run by the city, most by private groups - and under state rules, each one is supposed to make some arrangements for its residents to receive medical care. Most shelters send residents to nearby clinics, and some have private groups like the Children's Health Fund or Care for the Homeless come in.

But advocates for the homeless say that in many cases, the care available is inconvenient or inadequate.

"The truth is, no one is required to do a great deal with respect to the health of people in the shelters," said Frederick Shack, senior vice president for client services at Help USA, which runs several homeless shelters. "These are families that usually are overwhelmed, and have a significant number of other health issues in the household, so it's easy for something like a child's asthma to get missed."

James Anderson, a spokesman for the city's Department of Homeless Services, said the city made sure that shelters have ties to clinics, but added, "We're not a medical-service provider."

Dr. Redlener said a particularly serious obstacle to medical care is frequent placement of homeless families in shelters far from their old neighborhoods, making it difficult for those who had doctors to keep seeing them. That practice also takes children out of their schools, and takes people away from jobs, friends and extended family.

The Bloomberg administration has acknowledged the problem and, by its own account and that of the advocates, worked hard to remedy it. But people who work with the homeless say it persists.

As to why homeless children are more likely to have asthma than others in their neighborhoods, there is some uncertainty. The children studied were newly homeless, and the report states that their housing conditions, while very poor, had probably not been much different from their neighbors'.

The researchers propose that what sets these children apart may be stress. They cite research showing that factors like having a mother who is hospitalized or who suffers from depression is related to asthma in their children.

"Homeless children are particularly likely to have high levels of exposure to stressors, trauma and mental health issues," the report says. "Families that become homeless often do so after experiences of domestic violence, loss of jobs and loss of social support."

March 8, 2004

A Plague for the Young Homeless

A startling study of children entering the New York City homeless shelter system in 1998 and 1999 found that half of them were asthmatic. An overwhelming percentage of the worst stricken were not receiving regular care. The rate of affliction seems to have remained constant since the study was completed, while the number of children in city shelters has nearly doubled to 16,000.

While New York's numbers are the highest documented, the chronic illness is on the rise in other cities. The New York study, published in the March issue of The Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, underscores the vulnerability of urban populations that lack housing and access to primary health care. Low-income living environments are often the perfect hosts for lung-irritating particles, like dust, sooty air and the waste of household pests. Unhealthy nutrition is a co-conspirator.

New York has worked to reduce hospitalizations for asthmatic children in high-risk neighborhoods, but the special needs of children without the stability of a home have been harder to address. The illness — whose attacks can be triggered by a mere whiff of tobacco smoke or a passing feline — is harrowing for any victim, but most lethal to children without access to the medications that help them breathe normally again.

The only care these youngsters may get is in an emergency room, which does little to prevent future attacks and further strains an overwhelmed health system. Often ignored as unwanted burdens, young and homeless asthma patients have the added misfortune of being the canaries in the coal mine for this illness. Helping them breathe should be a priority on every urban agenda.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

March 10th, 2004, 08:00 AM
Homeless Children and Asthma (http://gothamgazette.com/article/health/20040310/9/909)

March 10th, 2004, 08:57 AM
There should not be any homeless children.

March 10th, 2004, 12:18 PM
What this is most likely to mean in concrete terms is a shift in budget priorities away from a roughly $580 million-a-year shelter system.

"Since 1999, this agency's budget has grown by $244 million," Ms. Gibbs said. "We need to look at those considerable resources and see how we could spend them more wisely, toward supportive housing, rental assistance and permanent community."

I was wondering what was motivating the Bush admin. :wink:

March 23rd, 2004, 12:09 AM
March 23, 2004

City Calls Its System of Aiding Homeless Too Broken to Fix


A waiting room at the ever-busy Emergency Assistance Unit, in the Bronx, where the city assesses families' housing needs. The Legal Aid Society has blacked out the faces of those pictured to protect their identities.

The Emergency Assistance Unit, the city's tarnished golden door for families declaring themselves homeless, is most famously overcrowded in August, when children are out of school. But on a tepid February evening, when a reporter was allowed a rare visit inside, the Bronx building was literally spilling people.

By 6:30 p.m., 300 families had logged in and were waiting to be bused to a bed for the night. Inside, beyond the metal detectors, a warren of drab, trash-dotted waiting rooms were awash in children who wailed and toddled and squirmed.

Adults lined the hallways looking vacant and tired. They sat on the transparent trash bags issued at the door — now filled with baby clothes, GameBoys and the occasional tattered Bible — or stretched out on the gray plastic benches, waking to brush off the occasional water bug.

Outside, 100 more were waiting to check in. It would be 2 a.m. before all the buses were on their way and the Bronx office emptied for a bit.

Because it is where poverty's growing demands collide with the supply of subsidized housing, the unit is overwhelmed as it struggles between helping families humanely and weeding out those whose need may not be dire.

Yet almost no one is happy with the balance achieved so far, and a battle is now shaping up that will affect the future existence of the notorious city office and the manner in which New York deals with its homeless population. City officials are frank about their desire: to shut down the unit for good.

"No one coming through here could believe this works as it is now," said Linda I. Gibbs, the commissioner of Homeless Services, said on a recent tour of the building. For 10 years, she said, the city has poured money into making the unit more physically palatable — most recently, the office has been covered with graffiti-resistant wallboards and new fluorescent lighting — and operationally efficient. And though the improvements are real — the cafeteria, for example, is sparkling these days — she considers them ultimately marginal in the face of the ever-increasing demand on the building.

Ms. Gibbs said it no longer made any sense to her to spend ever more money and staff time on improving the office, which was opened by the Koch administration in the 1980's after the city was sued and ordered by a state court to provide shelter on demand to homeless families. She would like instead to create an entirely new system in which families would apply for homeless assistance through local community groups receiving city financing that could offer them less drastic alternatives like rental assistance or family counseling. A space in a homeless shelter would be considered a last resort, provided through a new, smaller city office.

To advocates for the homeless, Ms. Gibbs's vision sounds like treason. "Any effort to eliminate the E.A.U. is an end-run effort to eliminate the entry point to safety-net shelter," said Steve Banks, the Legal Aid lawyer who has been running class action litigation against the city for two decades. "We have seen in the past what happens when the government does that: families end up sleeping on the subway."

Mr. Banks's vision is almost the opposite of Ms. Gibbs's. He argues that the flood at the office will stop only when the government builds large amounts of low-cost housing or provides much greater rental assistance. Until then, he would like to see a new, larger complex, where families would not only enter the city's system but where they could also be housed for the night, similar to the process that exists for single men. Such an office should have enough workers to process families in hours, not days, he said, and to provide immediate aid for getting into housing like long-term shelters.

Ms. Gibbs agrees with the goals, but says Mr. Banks's approach ignores the larger problem.

"As long as you continue to focus on how to fix the process for the 100 new families that show up every day, all you are going to do is put more Band-Aids on top of Band-Aids," she said. "A different solution is to move the focus of the system away from processing people into homelessness."

In January last year, the city and Legal Aid agreed to a two-year restraint on 20 years of litigation to let an independent panel of experts try to resolve some of the most contentious issues on family homelessness. The panel is now preparing a report on what to do with the Emergency Assistance Unit that will have significant weight with the court, and may be the blueprint for its future.

Down in the bowels of the unit, in the cubicles where investigations that decide family eligibility take place, a 17-year-old with cherry red lipstick and a matching stud beneath her lower lip might be Exhibit A in both sides' argument for change.

The teenager, whose name was withheld under city privacy rules, wants the city to recognize her and her 9-month-old baby as homeless. She has applied five times at the unit and been rejected each time. Each time, after the 10-day grace period during which the city provides shelter while it investigates her need, she has been removed from shelter and told to return to her mother's apartment.

But, as she explains to the city investigator, a quiet woman with a Caribbean accent, she cannot return to her mother's apartment because her mother does not get along with her child's father and has kicked her out. Even if she stayed, there would be six people living in the two-bedroom Bronx apartment, and her mother is in Ecuador anyway until April and has locked the place up.

The city investigator does not look convinced. She points out that the teenager has already had a fair hearing from the state, which agreed with the city. Her mother told investigators herself that her daughter and the boyfriend had in fact been living there before entering shelter. Unless the teenager presents new evidence that she is homeless, the investigator says, the city cannot put her into long-term shelter and into the coveted queue for permanent subsidized housing.

"There is no new evidence," the teenager screams in exasperation. "The apartment is locked. Go look."

The investigator promises to try to reach the mother in Ecuador, but until then, the teenager will just have to start the process all over again.

The city argues that the teenager is an example of just the kind of case that should never have made it to the unit.

In a rational system, Ms. Gibbs said, the first day she walked out of her apartment she would have met with a community group that might have provided mediation between the mother and boyfriend to arrange a temporary peace and then placed the her on a waiting list for rental assistance or some other subsidized housing without her having to enter a shelter.

To marshal its case for essentially eliminating the office, the city has amassed a wealth of data that show that there are too many cases similar to this one in which people use the Bronx office as a first line of action to get housing instead of the last resort.

For example, none of the families with children who come to the unit are coming from the street, according to city statistics, and more than half are staying with other family members. Roughly 40 percent of all those coming to the until are women 25 and under, many of whom are moving away from their mothers. The city estimates that only 25 percent of those who come even visit the office in the unit where options are offered to avoid homelessness, such as rental assistance or legal representation to prevent eviction.

Perhaps most maddening of all for the city, at any one point 50 percent of those in the unit have previously been considered and deemed to have housing, usually an apartment of a mother or grandmother. Nonetheless, they continue to return to the unit to restart the process time after time.

The expense to the city is enormous, but Ms. Gibbs said she was more concerned that the returning families slow things down for families truly needing help. The average time to be processed by the unit is currently two and a half days, although the city says that the preliminary application process could be completed in three hours.

To the Mr. Banks and the Coalition for the Homeless, which has also sued the city on behalf of the homeless, those numbers do not begin to tell the complications of the individual cases. The city's vision, they say, is all promise and no reality.

Advocacy groups also say that they have numbers based on city records they obtained through court order showing that the majority of those who make it to the shelter's door are really on their last legs. From 1999 to 2003, they say, 77 percent of those who completed the investigations process were found to meet city standards of homelessness. (The city notes that thousands more never completed the process.)

Of those nearly 26,000 eligible families, some 10,500 had to apply more than once before being accepted, Mr. Banks said. Of the roughly 8,000 who were found ineligible, only 860 reapplied to the system more than four times. "In other words," Mr. Banks said, "the city's own data show it is a minuscule fraction of families who might be abusing the system."

The groups would like to see some changes to the system. For starters, they would like the city to spend less energy on finding fraud and more on helping people in crisis, with, for example, the addition of social service workers at the unit who help families obtain documents to prove their homelessness. If the city offered some kind of on-site living quarters, advocates said, families would not need to be bused to sleeping quarters and children might not miss school for days at a time as they are shuffled before being placed in the 10-day interim shelter. Mr. Banks said he also wanted the independent advisory panel to improve eligibility investigations, which he said were too prosecutorial.

Gail Nayowith, the executive director of the Citizens' Committee for Children, who sits on the independent panel, said it had not reached a conclusion on what should be done, but said she understood that "the stakes are enormous."

She hinted that she would recommend that the city spend the resources to pursue both the systemic changes it wants and the process changes the advocates are demanding. "The big vision and the smaller vision at the E.A.U. will happen at the same time," she said, leaving open the question of where the money would come from.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

April 16th, 2004, 01:10 AM
April 16, 2004

Survey Shows Slight Decline in Homeless on the Streets


The number of homeless men and women sleeping on the streets of Manhattan has declined slightly even as the population in city shelters has surged, city officials said yesterday.

That finding was among the results of the second annual census of street homelessness, conducted by the Department of Homeless Services and released yesterday.

The officials also said the city would decentralize its shelter intake system - expanding it from one main office in Manhattan to three offices, two of them outside Manhattan.

In February, volunteers combed sections of the city to count people sleeping on the streets and in subway cars and doorways. From that count, the city extrapolated that there was a total of 2,694 homeless people on the streets of Manhattan, Brooklyn and Staten Island. (Queens and the Bronx will be added next year.)

In Manhattan, the only borough surveyed in 2003, the city said it found 1,472 homeless people, a slight decline from the 1,560 counted last year. Officials said the total number of adults in shelters citywide rose by more than 600, to nearly 9,000 people, in the same period.

Patrick Markee, a spokesman for the Coalition for the Homeless, a nonprofit advocacy group that has criticized the city's counting method, said: "It doesn't even pass the laugh test. You could talk to any New Yorker about the number of homeless they see on the street and know it is not true."

But Linda I. Gibbs, the city's commissioner of homeless services, said the count provided information that should help her agency meet people's needs. As a result of the data, she said, her office will open intake offices closer to outlying populations.

Ms. Gibbs said she would meet with groups that reach out to the homeless and with community planners to find locations for outreach programs in the next year, and that two would be outside of Manhattan. She said she hoped to close the East 30th Street shelter, which processes the intake of all single homeless men, within two years. The city first announced its desire to close the 30th Street shelter in 1999 under Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, but has been slow to build alternatives. Ms. Gibbs said Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg would request $7 million in his new budget to finance the new centers.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

TLOZ Link5
April 16th, 2004, 11:57 AM
I don't know if I can trust this census. There are plenty of homeless who sleep in the subway tunnels and others in utility tunnels; some of the latter are so old that they aren't even on contemporary city maps. I doubt that the census takers would be instructed to go to such places.

June 15th, 2004, 11:10 PM
June 16, 2004

New York Seeks to Make Homeless Shelters Less Inviting


Seeking to reduce the number of homeless people in municipal shelters, New York City is considering eliminating longstanding practices that may encourage people to enter the shelter system. It may also ask single people and families to pay part of the costs of a shelter if they are financially able.

A draft of the Bloomberg administration's new homeless plan suggests an end to the priority given to homeless families over other poor people seeking to receive a federal subsidized housing voucher. In addition, the city is contemplating screening homeless single people before giving them a long-term bed to see if they have other options, like living with relatives. Currently, the screening process is used only for families.

But the plan is not limited to restrictive measures. As fewer people are drawn into the homeless system, the city plans to redirect money toward preventive measures such as legal services for families facing eviction from their homes and one-time rental assistance.

Also under consideration is the construction of new housing units that come with intensive, continuing social services, known as "supportive housing," although no specific numbers are discussed in the draft.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is scheduled to reveal the city's 10-year plan for coping with its surging homeless population next Tuesday, and city officials said the final plan could differ significantly from the draft. The New York Times obtained a copy of the draft report from a homeless advocacy group that disagrees with the proposals and that demanded anonymity.

In many ways, the draft reveals a philosophical U-turn for the city, which over several administrations became oriented toward providing emergency shelter to homeless people, rather than considering ways to prevent homelessness.

"Because we have such a large and institutional shelter system, it has become the answer to every housing problem," said Linda I. Gibbs, the city's commissioner of Homeless Services, who would not comment on any of the specifics of the draft until it was released. "Which is why we have to put a lot more effort into preventing homelessness by looking broadly at what draws people into shelter in the first place."

But some advocates for the homeless argue that while its rhetoric is grand, the plan is far too vague, particularly when it comes to affordable housing and supportive housing.

"It feels a little bit like the emperor has no clothes," said Maureen Friar, executive director of the Supportive Housing Network of New York, who sat on a coordinating committee that advised the city on the report. "The plan has a lot of words without any goals we can measure to see what we've done next year. How can we measure results? It is disappointing that it is this general and out of sync from how the mayor has approached work in education and other areas he cares about."

Ms. Gibbs said that the city would shortly announce detailed goals and timetables for every aspect of the plan, including adding housing units.

Others who work on the issue praised the city for trying to reduce homelessness. Rosanne Haggerty, president of Common Ground, which is among the largest developers of supportive housing in the city, noted that it cost up to $33,000 a year to keep a family in emergency shelter and said that money should be shifted to new housing. "This plan zeroes in on moving resources away from emergency spending to the real solutions, which are prevention and housing," she said.

Eric Brettschneider, executive director of the Agenda for Children Tomorrow, a city-funded social services group, said the significance of the report was in its effort to prevent homelessness in the communities where the families come from.

"Until now, we separated crucial issues like housing and homelessness," he said. "This is in keeping with the idea of helping families in the context of communities."

Under a local law, the city must provide shelter on demand, and the average length of time that families stay in emergency housing has swelled to nearly a year. The number of families in shelters doubled to a record 9,000 from 1998 to 2003, and the number of single people in shelters, now at 37,000, has not been as high since 1990.

To deal with the problem, the city announced in November that it was working on a 10-year plan to end chronic homelessness. It then called on members of the city's homeless organizations, business leaders, and prominent citizens like former Mayor David Dinkins to participate in the planning process, which expanded to include every aspect of the system. The effort parallels a national push by the Bush administration to reduce chronic homelessness for single people.

The draft obtained by the Times is the last copy made available to the panel members who contributed to it, but it does not include changes that may have been made to the plan as a result of their critiques. And the critiques, at least on one narrow issue, have been fierce.

At a City Hall meeting with Bloomberg administration officials last month, several members of the groups that contributed to the report complained that it did not contain any specific numbers for new supportive housing, unlike most similar 10-year plans by other cities.

"There is a consensus, from the Bush administration to the advocates to the front-line providers, that the solution to this problem is supportive housing," said Mary Brosnahan Sullivan, the executive director of the Coalition for the Homeless, an advocacy group. "So to produce this report without the commitment of a single new unit of supportive housing is shocking." She said the city needed to build 16,000 units in the next decade.

In the past two decades, the city, with help from the federal and state governments, has built 21,000 units of supportive housing. The Bloomberg administration also produced a housing plan in 2002 that called for 2,300 new units of supportive housing.

The plan does not specify what the city might charge families for use of a shelter. In some cases, it already gets matching state and federal payments for families on welfare.

The draft plan also contains recommendations for the city's housing court to reduce evictions and a proposal to expand social services to the homeless after they move into permanent housing so that they do not become homeless again.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

June 23rd, 2004, 02:14 PM
June 23, 2004

Mayor Unveils New Policy For Sheltering Homeless


Mayor Michael Bloomberg unveiled a new homeless policy Wednesday that shifts the focus from building new shelters do keeping people out of them in the first place.

With homelessness at record highs, the ambitious plan aims to reduce the number of people living in shelters and on the streets of New York City by two-thirds within five years. The city will try to prevent homelessness by providing such services as one-time rent assistance and legal counsel for families facing eviction.

“Because we relied on shelter as our only homeless policy tool, our shelter population continues to grow,” the mayor said. “As a result, a system designed to provide an emergency safety net has instead become semi-permanent housing for far too many New Yorkers.”

The city will also try to speed up the process of moving people out of shelters and into permanent housing. The mayor called for construction of 12,000 units of supportive housing for homeless people with mental illnesses or drug problems.

The shelter system’s intake center, the Emergency Assistance Unit, will be redesigned, and anybody seeking temporary shelter will face stricter requirements. Single people will first be asked if they have other options, like living with relatives. Homeless people may also be asked to pay part of the shelter costs if they can afford it.

The Bloomberg administration also plans to create a citywide homeless database with information on each person's drug, criminal, health and housing histories.

Homeless advocates support much of plan, but some are worried that the new eligibility requirements could push people onto street.

“We are very much concerned with the upfront requirements, these eligibility reviews,” said Mary Brosnahan Sullivan of the Coalition for the Homeless. “Just to be very specific, if somebody is chronically homeless, they are probably mentally ill. So, to require that person, for instance, to complete a two-year housing history, you might as well be asking them to do trigonometry. It’s very impossible.”

The mayor said the new policy would shift funds in the current budget and would not require more money.

The mayor was originally expected to unveil a 10-year plan, but he cut the length in half to end in 2009, the year he would be leaving office is he wins re-election next year.

Copyright © 2004 NY1 News

June 23rd, 2004, 11:31 PM
June 24, 2004

Mayor Urges Major Overhaul of City Shelters


Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg unveiled an ambitious plan yesterday to reduce the number of homeless people in the city by two-thirds over the next five years, proposing to build thousands of units of new housing and put new restrictions on city shelters.

In an unexpected move, the mayor committed the city to creating 12,000 new units of housing over the next decade, and supporting the units with social services for the homeless. He also made it clear that to do that, he needed to shift dollars away from the city's vast and expensive shelter system.

To make that system less inviting, the city will begin asking single homeless men if they can use other options besides the city's shelters, and will eliminate the higher priority given homeless families over other poor families in applying for federal housing subsidies.

In another significant change, the mayor said the city planned to prevent families from reapplying for shelter soon after they have been deemed ineligible. A large number of families return repeatedly now to the city's Emergency Assistance Unit, the office that admits homeless families trying to enter shelter, despite being told that they are not eligible for shelter.

Yesterday's announcement coincided with the release of a report by a court-appointed panel on the city's Emergency Assistance Unit, making several significant recommendations for the future of the office, including replacing the Bronx building it uses.

"We have to recognize the cost and failing of our own best intentions," Mayor Bloomberg said, speaking at a news conference about an emergency shelter system that has swelled by 15,000 people in the last four years alone. "Our own policies needlessly encourage entry and prolong dependence on shelters. That has created a growing burden on our city budget."

While the city has been very publicly working on reducing its blooming homeless population since November, the force of the mayor's determination to enact this plan took many by surprise, including Linda I. Gibbs, the commissioner of homeless services, who said she was working on a 10-year timetable until last week when the mayor demanded five-year goals instead.

The city's many vocal homeless advocacy groups found the mayor's plan exceeded their expectations, and seemed to be delighted by his commitment to 12,000 units of new housing supported with social services - known as "supportive housing."

"It is a landmark commitment by the mayor and a challenge to the governor to meet the city halfway," said Joe Weisbord, staff director of Housing First!, a coalition of civic, business and labor groups.

Still, there were many questions left unanswered after the news conference, including how the mayor will pay for all the changes. He declined to say how much the city would contribute toward the 12,000 new units, and aides said the city would have to find assistance from the state and from private sources.

Carol Abrams, a spokeswoman for the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, said no details would be released on the city's financial commitment for 60 days. Ms. Gibbs said the city would release specific timetables and goals within the next 60 days.

The city is hoping to model this agreement at least in part on previous supportive housing agreements, particularly for mentally ill and drug addicted homeless people, signed under Mayors David N. Dinkins and Rudolph W. Giuliani in 1990 and 1999. Under those plans, the state paid for the social services and half the cost of construction. The state and federal governments are distinctly less generous with dollars these days, however.

The mayor said he would pay for financing the other parts of the plan by reducing the population in shelters. The city estimates that it costs roughly $25,000 a year to house a homeless family, so reducing those numbers could save a substantial amount. Since the shelters now hold a record 38,000 people and the high season for homelessness is beginning, several homeless advocacy groups said the mayor's financing strategy was risky.

Conceding that his group was thrilled with the mayor's "shift from just emergency solutions to prevention," Arnold S. Cohen, president and chief executive of the Partnership for the Homeless, said: "We are concerned the mayor is not investing in any new initiatives. The source of the money is the already existing system."

Although the mayor's announcement largely overshadowed the separate report on the Emergency Assistance Unit by the court-appointed panel, many of its recommendations were significant as well. Conditions at the much-reviled office in the Bronx have been the subject of nearly two decades of lawsuits, and the panel was established to find a solution that would settle the litigation.

In general, the panel's suggestions, which included the construction of an entirely new building that would be larger, cleaner and safer than the current one, were praised by both sides.

Dovetailing with the mayor's focus on prevention, the panel called for the creation of new city offices that could deal with housing emergencies at all hours but would not be used for gaining access to shelter. For those who choose to apply for shelter at the Emergency Assistance Unit, the panel called for an application process that lasts hours instead of days and for an eligibility review process based on clear, published rules.

The panel also called for hiring new employees to help families re-enter their neighborhoods if they have been found ineligible for shelter. Now families can apply for shelter as many times as they like even after the city inspectors have found that they have a home to return to, a process the panel says "clogs" the unit for more needy families.

This last suggestion, although vague, did create some concern for Steve Banks, lead counsel in the lawsuits against the city on the emergency units.

"For years, we've been saying more housing, more prevention and lawful eligibility provisions are required," Mr. Banks said, noting that the panel appeared to agree. "However, I'd certainly be concerned if the recommendation to develop a process of meeting the needs of ineligible families results in children and families ending up in the streets like they do in other cities. In that case, we'd have to go back to court."

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

June 24th, 2004, 12:11 AM
Mayor unveils homeless plan

June 22, 2004

The mayor unveiled a five-year plan aimed at cutting the size of the city’s homeless population by two-thirds.

The mayor says the plan focuses on prevention rather than on maintaining the city’s shelter system, which currently houses some 38,000 people.The components of the scheme include a centralized database that will help the city track the homeless population; stricter eligibility review procedures; increased supportive housing, to 12,000 units over the next five years versus a proposed 5,000; landlord-tenant mediation efforts to prevent eviction; initiatives in the prisons, public hospitals, foster care system, and shelters to help people being discharged make transitions to permanent housing; and the creation of a new building that will serve as a central intake center.

Mr. Bloomberg said the eviction prevention work will be funded by $12 million in the coming fiscal year, but that in future years, rental assistance and interventions will be funded by money saved on the shelter system.

Copyright 2004, Crain Communications, Inc

June 24th, 2004, 10:24 AM

June 24, 2004

Mayor Bloomberg yesterday unveiled an ambitious plan to reduce the record number of homeless in city shelters by two-thirds over the next five years, with an infusion of new housing and extensive efforts to prevent families from losing their homes.

The plan focuses on building 12,000 units of housing staffed by counselors, as well as intervention programs to keep families from becoming homeless in the first place — all while tightening restrictions on who is eligible for emergency housing.

"Today we propose a new, more flexible, proactive and ultimately cost-effective strategy centered on preventing homelessness before it occurs," Bloomberg said in a speech before the Association for a Better New York, a group of business and civic leaders.

Homeless advocates said the plan is unclear and unattainable. Many important details, such as the cost, won't be announced until this fall.

"There are some vague points and some points that contradict each other," said Mary Brosnahan Sullivan, executive director of the Coalition for the Homeless. "I can't imagine this happening in a five-year period."

While promising to speed the application process for emergency housing, Bloomberg also would require families to provide a two-year housing history and encourage them to apply for help during business hours.

"When you're homeless, the logistics of carrying all this paperwork around is difficult — paperwork gets lost," said Brosnahan Sullivan. "And imagine asking a schizophrenic to recall the past two years of his life."

But Bloomberg said the city is up to the task.

"Some may consider it an unattainable goal. We do not," he said. "Not so long ago, many people thought that bringing crime in New York under control was pie in the sky. We've proved that wrong."

Homeless Services Commissioner Linda Gibbs said she would begin by focusing on six neighborhoods that have the highest concentration of homeless families.

Gibbs is also creating a database to track the homeless — much like the NYPD's CompStat, which tracks areas where the most crimes occur so the city can better focus its resources.

Currently, there are about 36,598 homeless in shelters — including 15,284 children.

During the past year, the city has moved about 24,000 people from shelters to permanent housing. Despite that effort, the number of homeless in city shelters continues to remain at the highest levels ever.

"Money and manpower now used to manage homelessness will instead be devoted to ending it," Bloomberg said. "Currently, for every dollar spent by the city on prevention, three and a half dollars are spent on shelter. Over the next five years, that ratio will change."

Copyright 2004 NYP Holdings, Inc.

June 26th, 2004, 10:34 AM
June 26, 2004

When Faith and Duty Collide


Officer Eduardo Delacruz has already been suspended 30 days and faces a department trial in July.

As someone who believes Jesus Christ can be seen even in the grimy faces of those living in the city's shadows and crawl spaces, Police Officer Eduardo Delacruz says he obeyed a higher authority when he refused to arrest a homeless man in November 2002.

On the beat, however, the police commissioner trumps the Almighty, as Officer Delacruz learned when he was suspended for his action. Charged with refusing to comply with a lawful order, he faces a departmental trial in late July that could cost him his job and pension.

Speaking publicly for the first time, Officer Delacruz described himself as a religious man - with an unblemished record - whose attempts to temper his job with compassion collided with the department's zero-tolerance policy on homeless people. His lawyers argued that the department's homeless policy gave officers far less flexibility in negotiating with them, resulting in arrests for the most minor of infractions.

"I did not want to compromise my position," he said. "Now I was facing something that was hard to do from the beginning, which was locking up the homeless without giving them a fair chance."

Officer Delacruz, 39, has already served a 30-day suspension without pay and has been transferred out of the Homeless Outreach Unit. His wife and five children are uneasy about the future. What sustains him, he said, is his faith.

"What did St. Paul say? Fight the good fight of faith," he said. "I'm fighting for peace. To get back my life. I still have to deal with the possibility of being fired. All for doing something I believed was right."

To the Police Department, an order is an order, and officers are not given leeway to choose which ones they follow.

"The Police Department is a quasi-military organization where disobeying a superior's lawful order is a serious offense," said Paul J. Browne, the deputy commissioner for public information. "The penalty will be decided after trial, not before." He declined to comment further on the case.

A spike in arrests of homeless people in the fall of 2002 led advocates and civil libertarians to sue the Bloomberg administration, contending that the police were singling out the homeless. Over one month that ended in mid-November that year, the police arrested 580 homeless people, compared with 288 over the same period the previous year, on charges from sleeping in public to assault. The city settled the lawsuit by instructing the police not to focus on homeless people when enforcing violations.

Advocates for the homeless are stunned that the department would seek any further punishment of Officer Delacruz beyond the suspension.

"They're going to go to trial on that?" asked Doug Lasdon, the executive director of the Urban Justice Center, an advocacy group for the poor. "They're going to make this guy a hero."

Officer Delacruz said he grew up admiring the police as strong figures who helped the public. He spent a few years after high school working as a lifeguard and swimming instructor before the demands of marriage and family led him to become a police officer in 1994.

After three years of late-night shifts patrolling the subway, he transferred to the Homeless Outreach Unit, which he saw as a way to help the most vulnerable. What he found amazed him as he ventured into tunnels to find people living with jury-rigged sources of water and light.

"It was shocking, the ingenuity," he said. "They would find a way to live in a hole. I mean a cave, that's different. This was wild."

He befriended some of the regulars, often giving them food or clothing. A lot of things, he said, he did quietly and alone.

"I didn't see them as homeless," he said. "I saw them as people. I'd say a majority of New York City is just a paycheck away from being homeless."

Everything changed in October 2002, he said, when his unit was told one day at roll call that it was to become "proactive" after complaints to police and politicians about the growing presence of homeless people on Manhattan streets. He said his unit was told to ask homeless people if they wanted to go to a shelter. Anyone who refused, and lacked proper identification would be arrested.

"Zero tolerance, we will not make deals with the homeless," Officer Delacruz said his superiors told them. "This is not Monty Hall. Oh, my Lord. I mean we were all mind-boggled."

Officer Delacruz said tensions with his superiors first arose when they noticed he had not been making arrests of the homeless, so his superiors found locations where there were homeless people and called him in. His lawyers said that one night he was summoned to Grand Central Terminal, where his superiors showed him two men asleep. One man had dozed off waiting for his wife, but had identification and was issued a summons. The other told Officer Delacruz he wanted to go to a shelter.

The following night, Nov. 22, Officer Delacruz was called to a garage near Union Square where a man was sleeping under a no trespassing sign. According to his lawyers, one of Officer Delacruz's superiors asked the man if he wanted shelter. When the man said no, the superior arrested him and then told the officer to process the arrest.

Officer Delacruz, according to court papers, instead asked the man if he wanted to go to a shelter rather than jail.

"I am not going to arrest him," he said. "He's got a right to a shelter."

Another officer processed the arrest and Officer Delacruz was suspended.

Norman Siegel, former executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union and one of Officer Delacruz's lawyers, insists the policy change had never been properly promulgated and that the arrest had been manufactured to "set up" the officer.

"If that homeless person was a threat, why were they standing around waiting for Delacruz to show up?" Mr. Siegel asked.

Officer Delacruz said he was not opposed to arresting homeless criminals: his first arrest was a homeless man who jumped a turnstile. And he would arrest anyone who posed a danger of violence. But he said someone just down on his luck was not a criminal. That was why he thought his unit's original mission of helping the homeless find services was a noble cause.

"My position in life is to treat people like I want to be treated," he said. "That's what Jesus taught. That's what I instill in my children."

Officer Delacruz now says that if faced with the same situation he would "comply with whatever I was told to do." He did not see it as betraying his ideals, but as a way of sparing his family more suffering. His faith, he insists, remains.

He knows some people find it odd that he feels this way. He said some of his colleagues joked about how he read the Bible during breaks.

"They always look at you, check you out," he said. "They want to know what makes you tick. You're a mystery to them when people don't live by faith."

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

July 1st, 2004, 10:37 AM

July 1, 2004

Lawmakers outraged by 13 infant deaths at homeless shelters since 2000 accused child-welfare agencies of dropping the ball yesterday — even as city officials insisted that it's not "a widespread problem."

Of the 56 fatalities reported for suspected abuse or neglect last year, 10 were of children whose families lived in shelters. Of those 10, seven had cases before the Administration for Children Services.

"These numbers, while each representing the tragic and heartbreaking death of a child, are not numbers that indicate a widespread problem of child mortality in city shelters," Lisa Parrish, ACS deputy commissioner, testified before the City Council's General Welfare Committee.

Yesterday's oversight hearing came on the heels of the death of a 3-month-old Harlem boy who was beaten to death while his troubled family was living in a shelter and getting help from several city agencies.

On June 10, The Post detailed how little Colesvinton Florestal died in city custody — weighing less than when he was born. He'd been housed in the Hamilton Hotel with his 5-year-old half-brother, his mother, Jovannie, and father, Colesvinton Sr., a paroled drug dealer.

A furious Mayor Bloomberg asked for answers, and an inter-agency task force is expected to complete its review of the case and make recommendations by July 20.

"We are implementing reforms that will lead to more coordination in city services," said Roger Newman, deputy commissioner of Homeless Services.

A citywide database is being developed so agencies can share information.

"We think if we're able to share information we can provide a better service for families," Newman added.

Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum said, "All of us in government should be outraged and ashamed by systemic failings that allowed his murder to happen."

A peeved Councilman Bill Perkins (D-Harlem) demanded of city officials: "Was it The Post article that brought you the sense of urgency? Why didn't we take these steps before now?"

City officials insisted they were not totally responsible.

"I think it is fair to say that this point given what we know that the system did not kill this young child. The parents did and they've been indicted," said Joseph Cardieri, ACS general counsel.

"I'm not accusing you of murder or anything like that, but we have to [assume] that there was some failure in this system," Perkins said.

Parrish responded, "We are very, very concerned and we marshal every resource whenever there is a serious abuse or fatality case."

Copyright 2004 NYP Holdings, Inc.

July 18th, 2004, 12:26 AM
July 18, 2004


A Place to Call Home


LAST month, Mayor Bloomberg announced an aggressive five-year plan to end homelessness in New York City. The plan offers a shift away from the provision of emergency shelter to a focus on prevention and housing development. The goal is to shrink the homeless system by two-thirds by the end of 2009. While it is a welcome and long-awaited initiative, it also presents new hurdles for the administration.

First, prevention, as the Bloomberg plan acknowledges, is essential. Keeping someone from becoming homeless, an experience that can last anywhere from a few months to a lifetime, is of paramount importance. It is imperative, however, that "prevention" does not turn out to be simply turning away those who need shelter. The plan directs $12 million toward neighborhood-based prevention programs in communities at high risk of homelessness. Most of these neighborhoods represent the city's poorest, and with more than 500,000 New Yorkers dedicating over 50 percent of their income to housing, one has to ask if simply paying rent arrears or providing legal services - two major goals in the mayor's plan - is a sufficient long-term answer to the problem.

Second, while the plan's pledge to create more than 12,000 housing units that provide on-site social services in five years is long overdue, it is here that Mr. Bloomberg faces his greatest challenge. Few municipalities have ever created so much housing in so little time. Perhaps this one can, but what is missing is an understanding of the decline of low-income affordable housing in this city. Old high-rise projects that house thousands of people are being torn down and replaced with less dense housing; poor neighborhoods are steadily gentrifying; and privately owned subsidized apartments are rapidly moving to rental market rates - all at a time when the federal government is freezing rental subsidies and cutting back on their availability. Furthermore, the city's privately owned subsidized housing - 500 developments with close to 100,000 units - risks depletion, either through owner opt-out and market conversion or through the steady decline of low-income housing construction. In fact, the Community Service Society, a nonprofit organization that works on poverty issues, estimates losses of more than 25 percent of subsidized housing, with more to come. Without a plan to preserve these affordable apartments, all we are doing is producing housing by the spoonful while we lose housing by the barrel.

Finally, the mayor's goal of reducing the shelter population by two-thirds in five years demonstrates bold leadership, but the city shouldn't continue to shunt people into the expensive and ill-maintained scattered-site apartments and welfare hotels that house half of the city's homeless families. These facilities have a history of scandal and are long overdue for removal from the system.

A better solution would be for the city to continue to invest in a comprehensive transitional housing system. For a decade, the city has put $4.6 billion into such a system, which consists not of the stark, sterile shelters of long ago but of groups of private apartments with a multitude of services operated by nonprofit organizations like Homes for the Homeless. American Family Inn residences, sponsored by Homes for the Homeless, and other private and city shelters provide child-care and after-school programs for children, as well as education and job training for adults. They are places from which parents commute to work and children go to school; they are homes to those who live there. And they work - more than 90 percent of the families that Homes for the Homeless place in permanent housing do not return to homelessness.

New York City's homeless crisis has been in the making for over two decades. Whether it can be significantly curtailed in five years remains to be seen. Mr. Bloomberg's plan is a good first step, but any plan to end homelessness requires commitment on a multitude of levels. The task is too great for local government to do it alone. The city and the mayor must be more aggressive in pressing for additional capital resources for affordable housing - from Washington and from the state. If not, regardless of any plan or timeline, five, 10 and 15 years from now, we will be faced with yet another generation of homeless men, women and children waiting for solutions that may never come.

Ralph da Costa Nunez is chief executive of Homes for the Homeless and author of "A Shelter Is Not a Home ... or Is It?" David R. Jones is chief executive of the Community Service Society.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

July 19th, 2004, 01:09 AM
July 19, 2004

City Is Gambling on an Old Program to Cure Homelessness


Marcia Covington, in kitchen pass-through, with her six children, from left, Alliyah, Lekia, Anthony, Krystle, Robert and Walter, in their home in Dreitzer House, at left, on 115th Street in East Harlem.

To reduce homelessness in New York City by two-thirds, as Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg pledged to do last month, the city plans to rely on a broadly expanded version of a program that combines new housing with intensive social services.

For 20 years, that program, known as "supportive housing," has been largely restricted to single people, most of whom have severe mental or physical problems like schizophrenia or AIDS. The Bloomberg administration is gambling that the program will be equally effective for families, former convicts and former wards of foster care, many of whom have very different medical and economic needs.

City officials acknowledge that their plan is based on instinct as much as on science. Independent studies have shown that supportive housing works for chronic street people who are mentally ill, saving tax dollars that would otherwise be spent on emergency visits to hospitals and shelters. There is little research on whether the concept will work for families or other homeless people, who might benefit as much from less expensive, no-frills subsidized housing.

"We were only able to measure the effectiveness of housing for singles after we built it," said Linda I. Gibbs, the city's commissioner for homeless services. "We do feel convinced that there are other populations who will benefit from the model."

The administration's thinking reflects the success of earlier supportive housing efforts. By most accounts, supportive housing for singles, which was started in the city in 1980's, was crucial in lowering the number of homeless people on New York streets throughout the 1990's, though the number is rising again. New York was one of the first to use the program, and it remains the principal tool to combat street homelessness in most urban areas across the nation.

The program works by keeping the services tenants need close to their apartments. Typically, a group of subsidized apartments shares a building with social workers and a visiting support staff of psychiatrists and doctors. Although the tenants hold leases and pay some portion of their rent, they must abide by the rules of the project, which may include mandatory monitoring by social workers or an obligation to remain in drug treatment.

There are about 20,000 supportive housing units in the five boroughs, most of which are for individuals with problems so severe that they cannot live independently. The administration has proposed building 12,000 more units, though the city has not yet said how much the plan will cost or which groups will get which units.

As the population in city shelters has ballooned sharply in recent years to nearly 40,000 people, including 8,700 families, advocates for the homeless have pushed to go beyond the use of the program for single people. Subsidized housing alone is insufficient, they say, citing city statistics showing that nearly a third of homeless families who received subsidized apartments in the last decade became homeless again. The advocates want roughly 1,500 to 2,000 units of the 12,000 units proposed by the mayor to be allotted to families.

"There are a subset of homeless families that, even with affordable housing, return to the shelter system because they have barriers to independence like domestic violence and drug addiction," said Maureen Friar, executive director of the Supportive Housing Network of New York. "Rather than have them cycle through years of chaos, supportive housing is the best promise to break the cycle."

But the costs for supportive housing are steep. The government's share (usually split between the state, the city and Washington) can be as high as $16,000 a year for a single person and $30,000 a year for a large family, according to Ms. Friar's group, a nonprofit organization that represents groups building low-cost housing that includes attached social services. By comparison, subsidized rent vouchers for a family of six would be closer to $18,000 a year.

Ms. Gibbs said the city was trying to develop its own estimate of how many family apartments will be needed. But Dennis Culhane, an associate professor of social welfare policy at the University of Pennsylvania, who conducted the original study showing the effectiveness of the program for single people, said creating new units for families made him nervous.

He said his research showed that 90 percent of the time, a simple rent voucher was enough to prevent families from returning to homelessness. Although families do return to shelters in New York, he said that was largely because of bureaucratic errors, not the deep psychiatric problems that many single people have. "These families are not service-needy," he said.

Mr. Culhane said that as many as 10 to 15 percent of people in supportive housing no longer needed the services they moved in for, but that they stayed because the rents are so low. When much of the city's supportive housing units for AIDS patients were being built, he noted, male patients were often dying. Now prescription drugs make it possible for such patients to lead fairly normal lives and no longer need much of the intensive in-home care that the city is charged for, he said.

At Dreitzer House, a neat redbrick tower on 115th Street in East Harlem, it is possible to glean how the promises and pitfalls of supportive housing for families may play out. Dreitzer is one of a handful of family supportive housing complexes in the city, run by Palladia Inc., a nonprofit organization that provides numerous services for poor families, especially for those with chronic substance abusers. Residents agree to at least one visit a month with a social worker and can use amenities like a computer room, a library, and an art training program for children.

Dreitzer's 36 apartments still have most of the tenants who were in the project when it opened in 1999. To Jane Velez, the president of Palladia, the low turnover is a sign that supportive housing produces stability and is catching and mitigating crises as they occur.

"For most of our families who are talking about generations of problems and complex problems," she said, "even when they are stabilized they are vulnerable."

But Sandra Tucker, the social worker at Dreitzer, thinks that perhaps 12 of the 36 families have grown enough in their five years there to be able to live without support. She mentioned Marcia Covington, 41, who lives in a tight three-bedroom apartment with six children. In 1994, Ms. Covington said, she was living in subsidized housing in East Elmhurst but had become so addicted to crack that she began leaving her children at home alone for long periods. Her fifth child was born addicted. She hit rock bottom the next year, Ms. Covington said, and voluntarily placed her children in foster care and began drug treatment with Palladia.

Since 1997, Ms. Covington has been free of drugs, she said, and has held a job in a law office. The apartment she was assigned at Dreitzer enabled her to get her children back from foster care, and they seem to be doing well. The apartment is immaculate, because each child has a chore and all six are in school or working. Artwork from one son in the in-house program decorates the walls.

She acknowledged that the supportive living has been a help, but said she dreamed of total independence. "I think I could make it on my own," she said, "if I could ever find housing that I could afford."

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

December 7th, 2004, 07:27 AM
Gotham Gazette - http://www.gothamgazette.com/article/housing/20041207/10/1205

The City’s New Housing Subsidy

by Joe Lamport

December 12, 2004

The city has run out of Section 8 vouchers, the federal rent subsidy that has been its main weapon in fighting homelessness. City officials have proposed a new subsidy program, to be financed by city, state and federal money, to replace Section 8, which will be called Housing Stability Plus. Homeless advocates are not impressed.

The drying up of Section 8 vouchers and the new subsidy were the focus of a heated public hearing of the City Council’s General Welfare Committee on December 1st.

The Section 8 rent subsidy program helps working poor people pay their monthly rent. People on Section 8 are expected to spend a third of their income on rent; the subsidy covers the difference up to “fair market rents” determined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

About 120,000 New Yorkers are on Section 8, which is primarily administered by the New York City Housing Authority. About 150,000 people are on the waiting list for Section 8, which has been closed for about a decade.

Warning signs that Section 8 would run out have been evident for more than a year. In October, the city sent letters to people in the process of being certified for the assistance informing them that they would have to use their vouchers by December 19. But that date turned out to be wrong. The vouchers apparently ran out just before Thanksgiving.

“The city has broken its promise to these people,” Patrick Markee, senior policy analyst at the Coalition for the Homeless, told the committee. “They took away the relocation program without anything up and running.”

Many of the homeless families who saw their Section 8 vouchers evaporate would likely end up in New York City Housing Authority apartments, the housing authority’s general manager told the committee. But city officials had few concrete answers for these people except to wait and see about the new proposed subsidy.

The people were seething at the committee hearing, particularly women in domestic violence shelters who are awaiting housing placements. Those shelters allow women to stay for only a limited time.

The city’s proposed subsidy to replace Section 8 is still being negotiated, although city and state officials told the committee that all of the major issues relating to it had been ironed out. The officials said the city is continuing to press the federal government for renewed Section 8, but by creating a new subsidy, some advocates questioned the mayor’s and governor’s commitment to New Yorkers.

“We urge the city not to give up on Section 8,” said Lauren Bholai-Pareti, executive director of the Council on Homeless Policies and Services. “The mayor and the governor should come together to assure we get that assistance.”

Without Section 8 to help place homeless families in permanent housing, city officials said the city would face a huge financial burden putting or leaving people in shelters without some sort of subsidy program. The city pays about $90 a night to house homeless families, or almost $3,000 a month, and its homeless services budget, much of which goes to pay for shelter, has nearly doubled since 1999, to about $700 million.

“Without this (subsidy), the shelter system would quickly grow,” Linda Gibbs, the city’s homeless services commissioner, told the city council committee. “Our hope is that in a matter of days we will see approval. The major issues have been resolved.”

Councilmember Bill de Blasio, the committee’s chairman, said the city’s proposal was a positive step, even if flawed.

“Before Washington cuts us off, you put something into play that is sort of an inoculation against that,” he said. “I appreciate that.”

The subsidy, Housing Stability Plus, would cost about $58 million annually, city officials said, money that would simply be shifted in the city and state budgets for public assistance.

“The state can cover it,” said Robert Doar, commissioner of the state’s Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance. “It takes time to review all the aspects of the plan. We’re getting close to an agreement on what this will cost.”

But advocates rejected the new subsidy. It significantly differs from Section 8, they said, in very negative ways.

Unlike Section 8, recipients of Housing Stability Plus assistance would have to be on public assistance and the subsidy would decline by 20 percent annually until it ran out after five years. Gibbs told council members that the decline was intended to encourage poor families to become self-sufficient. But asked what the families would do if they could not pay what in effect would be a 20 percent increase in their rent, she said the agency was hoping they could pay it.

“We’ll make changes as needed,” she said. “The focus is making it work. We’ll figure out how to make it work.”

But she said people who could not become self-sufficient would have to look elsewhere for help: “This program may not be for them,” Gibbs said. “There are other service systems” that would help them.

But decreasing rent for families on welfare would not encourage self-sufficiency, said Paige Sayle, director of community relations and advocacy at the Partnership for the Homeless. People who receive public assistance have their benefits cut if they earn too much money. So, the families would likely “turn down jobs or take low paying jobs in order to keep their rent subsidy,” she said.

Decreasing rents could also discourage landlords from accepting the subsidy, advocates said, a point one landlord acknowledged.

“If someone’s homeless and doesn’t have a job then you know their income is going to be an issue,” said Frank Anelante, president and CEO of Lemle & Wolff, which manages over 300 buildings in the city. “That’s a problem.”

Gibbs assured the council that landlord partners of the homeless services department had said they would accept the subsidy.

It was unclear at the hearing what would happen to working poor families who do not qualify for public assistance. It was also unclear whether landlords would accept the subsidy that, unlike Section 8, offers no incentive payment to landlords for taking homeless families and declines each year.

“There are a lot of questions,” said Councilmember Gale Brewer. “We’re all wondering how this will work. And we wonder about the priorities.”

The new subsidy would pay lower rents than what Section 8 pays, another flaw advocates pointed out. Gibbs said the proposed maximum rents the subsidy would cover, based on family size, were still competitive. A family of four that qualified could rent an apartment at $925 a month in the first year of receiving Housing Stability Plus. A family of six would receive up to $1,176 a month in the first year.

“There has been a constant issue with the fair market rents,” said Steven Banks, the Legal Aid Society’s attorney-in-chief. “This is even lower.”

Added to the financial issues, the new subsidy also differs from Section 8 in what quality of apartments it would pay for. While Section 8 has famously rigorous standards that disqualify apartments with violations, the new subsidy would not impose standards that are as strict. Advocates said the city would end up putting homeless families in unsafe and unhealthy apartments under the new subsidy.

The flaws in the subsidy were somewhat beside the point, advocates said. That the city had clear warning signs that Section 8 would run out and did not do enough sooner was an indication of the wrong priorities, they said.

“There has been a 63 percent increase in homelessness since 1999,” Banks said. “That reflects need. The city needs to spend money on housing. It’s all about rent. That’s the flaw in the current proposal.”

Joe Lamport is the assistant director of the City-Wide Task Force on Housing Court (http://www.cwtfhc.org), a coalition of community housing organizations.

March 3rd, 2005, 06:57 AM
March 3, 2005


For Homeless, a New Era Could Be Near

By JOYCE PURNICK (http://query.nytimes.com/search/query?ppds=bylL&v1=JOYCE%20PURNICK&fdq=19960101&td=sysdate&sort=newest&ac=JOYCE%20PURNICK&inline=nyt-per)

http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/dropcap/n.gifEW YORK's policies on the homeless could, after more than two decades, be at a crossroads. Of course they always seem to be at a crossroads.

But - maybe this time? A review of the facts, then, because when all else fails, there are always the facts.

The History

Anyone born when New York City's treatment of homeless people was first brought before the courts is now a young adult. It was 1979, and the plight of the homeless had become a growing phenomenon that stubbornly eluded solution.

Lawsuits were filed - first on behalf of homeless single men, then women, then, in 1983, families with children. Two years later, that case went to Justice Helen E. Freedman of State Supreme Court in Manhattan, who continues to supervise all litigation involving homeless families with children.

The System

The case involving families is the most complex, requiring the city to comply with more than 50 court orders and stipulations that have led to micromanagement that impedes rather than promotes improvement, says the Bloomberg administration, echoing previous City Halls.

In the last 22 years, the court has stipulated almost every detail of the city's treatment of homeless families - from how quickly families must be placed in shelters to the availability of a particular brand of anti-diarrhea medication. Some court orders have clearly improved the lives of the homeless. Others are so detailed or contradictory, they seem to invite failure.

For example, when people arrive at facilities for the homeless, the city must process their applications for shelter within 24 hours, but it must also give those same people eight-hour passes to leave at any time, making the 24-hour deadline hard to meet. The result: penalties for noncompliance. The city is paying $10 million in fines so far to families the court deemed to have been ill-served from June 1995 to October 2003.

The Pause

In January 2003, the city and lawyers representing the families, led by the Legal Aid Society, agreed to a two-year moratorium on litigation while a three-member special master panel went to work. The panel, selected by both sides, reviewed policies, made recommendations and found ways to resolve problems outside the courtroom.

In those two years, unhampered by the need to appear in court, the city made strides, the panel noted to Justice Freedman. There's a new, smoothly operating intake facility, for instance, and in two years, no family has slept in the Emergency Assistance Unit in the Bronx - the infamous symbol of an overwhelmed bureaucracy.

There's obviously more to do. But in their letter, written in January and made public last month, the panel members unanimously recommended ending court supervision. They differed on the timing - from as soon as feasible to a minimum of a year. But the city "has earned the opportunity to go forward into a new era," they agreed. "We do not believe it appropriate at this time, in light of all the changed circumstances, for this court to remain in perpetual supervision of the system for homeless families with children."

Before the letter was sent, the city and the Legal Aid Society tried to agree on a process for ending litigation. But negotiations broke down.

The Reaction

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg blamed Legal Aid, saying it "stifled progress for years with counterproductive litigation," hurting homeless families. Linda I. Gibbs, his commissioner of homeless services, argued that constant litigation "creates a culture of passivity. It gets to a point where you internalize limitations."

Steven Banks of the Legal Aid Society says, "We are more than willing to make appropriate concessions, but not concessions that would strip away core legal protections for children and families." But the case must stay in court because the city, he said, has not done enough yet.

It can never do enough to satisfy critics, said Ross Sandler, a professor at New York Law School and co-author of "Democracy by Decree: What Happens When the Courts Run Government." Mr. Banks can always return to court, but this round should end, he said. "There is sufficient showing of commitment by the city, good faith and real progress. It's time for the courts to allow government to function."


Both sides are expected to return to Justice Freedman's courtroom soon, and make their arguments. Then she will have to decide: Year 23. Or not.

A tough call. But she can always consider the facts.

Copyright 2005 (http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/copyright.html) The New York Times Company (http://www.nytco.com/)

April 30th, 2006, 07:41 PM
April 30, 2006
Making a Flophouse a Home, and a Decent One at That

The Andrews House's cubicles, lining a 17-foot-wide space split by a corridor, have been reinvented as compact but efficient spaces like the one pictured below.


Video: Reinventing the Flophouse (http://nytimes.feedroom.com/?fr_story=69d68ee611cd360fa33bac9ff8940e389ac141ba )

The lowly flophouse has all but vanished from the urban landscape, swept away by the well-meaning forces of housing reform, city planning and gentrification. But Rosanne Haggerty, whose work housing the homeless won her a MacArthur fellowship in 2001, thinks it is time to give the flophouse a second chance.

The immediate object of Ms. Haggerty's affection is one of the last surviving lodging houses on the Bowery in Manhattan, the Andrews House, a 97-year-old "cubicle hotel" where aging men, many of them alcoholics, have whiled away countless decades in sunless cubicles, television screens flickering on nicotine-stained walls.

Ms. Haggerty is now reinventing the Andrews House and, in the process, she hopes to answer an unexpected question: Could a flophouse — a good flophouse, well designed and humanely managed — become, for people who have steered clear of other forms of housing in favor of the street, a critical first step toward a permanent home?

The undertaking, by the organization Ms. Haggerty founded in New York City in 1990, Common Ground Community, one of the country's largest nonprofit developers of so-called supportive housing, has attracted the attention of people who work with the homeless in other cities including Toronto, San Francisco, Minneapolis and Chicago.

"We are fundamental believers in permanent housing," said Ms. Haggerty, who hopes to move residents into renovated parts of the Andrews House in August. "We're calling the Andrews first-step housing. We want to get people now alienated from the idea of living in housing to enter in on their own terms, and then work with them from there."

Once, most major cities had a lodging house district, a skid row. In the 1930's and early 40's, there were 50 to 100 flophouses along the Bowery. The street was home to thousands of men, mostly single — a ready industrial army of unskilled migrant day laborers for any employer in need of gang labor.

But after World War II, industries moved out of cities and mechanization changed the demand for labor. Skid rows became repositories of retired, elderly men. Without lobbies, men socialized on sidewalks, some with bottle in hand. Lodging houses were perceived as squalid magnets for a rough crowd and the occasional criminal.

"Any kind of single-room-occupancy hotel was seen as a bad thing," said Paul Groth, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley and author of "Living Downtown: The History of Residential Hotels in the United States." "They were the favorite target of urban renewal. It was the old, messy city; these were people you didn't want around. They reminded you that capitalism wasn't working for everyone all the time."

Nan Roman, president of the National Alliance to End Homelessness, believes that the decline of the lodging houses, boarding houses and S.R.O.'s (where residents could rent not a mere cubicle but a fully enclosed room) "was probably a big contributor to the emergence of homelessness."

Ms. Haggerty's project arose out of more than 100 interviews that Common Ground conducted in soup kitchens and shelters in 1997. The aim was to understand the group of homeless people who seemed uninterested in the kind of housing, with on-site social services, that Common Ground offered. What would they prefer?

Many said they wanted something small, private, safe, cheap; they wanted just enough space for themselves and their belongings. They had a little money, though not enough for an apartment. They could pay. And they wanted anonymity.

"They were really talking about a lodging house," Ms. Haggerty said. "Nothing grand, a modicum of privacy, anonymity." Today in New York City, fewer than 40,000 legal S.R.O. units remain, down from 150,000 to 200,000 in the late 1950's. The number of cubicle hotels — a step down from an S.R.O. — has dwindled to fewer than a dozen, most of them within a few blocks of the Andrews.

"None of us had focused on the Bowery — a place you could get a toehold, where for a couple of bucks a night you could get something safe, private, no questions asked," Ms. Haggerty said. The interviews, she said, "got us thinking, almost against our wishes: What if you were to take what we're hearing seriously and try to fill this need?"

Common Ground invited homeless people to focus groups: What would the ideal unit look like? Over and over, people would ask for paper and pencil, then sketch the simplest outline of a Monopoly house — a three-sided box with an upside down V for a roof.

Common Ground met with the Fire Department and Department of Buildings to discuss complying with codes. Potential residents wanted the cubicles to be roofed, for security. But the Fire Department said the walls could not reach the ceiling; there had to be space for light, air circulation and sprinkler systems.

In 2000, Ms. Haggerty spent several months in Japan on a fellowship from the Japan Society studying efficient design. She met with people in the prefabricated construction industry and the designers of capsule hotels, places where businessmen bed down for the night in cubbyholes the size of refrigerator boxes for, say, $30.

She came to think that design is the great "bridger." It is not the amount of space that matters; it is how well the space is designed. The context of the space — the other amenities nearby — is also important. And there is more than one way to design a unit.

Common Ground was already looking for a suitable building. Lofts were too expensive, and Common Ground was outbid for one lodging house by a man who planned to convert it into luxury condos. Finally, Common Ground found the Andrews and bought it in 2002 for $2.3 million.

Built to house 200 people, the building was six stories high and only 17 feet wide. Inside, submarine-style corridors lined with cubicles ran lengthwise into gloom. The number of residents had dwindled to 90, men in their 40's to their 80's. Shari Siegel, now the director, said that men were dying there at a rate of about one a month.

"The only appointment I'm keeping is with the undertaker," one resident told his caseworker when she pressed him to keep a doctor's appointment, Ms. Siegel remembers. Two days later, the man was dead. A fellow resident peered over the top of the cubicle.

"Shari," he said. "I think you've got a dead body upstairs."

It took 13 Dumpsters to empty the Andrews of detritus — old suitcases, calendars, clothing, Chinese menus, whatever residents agreed to part with. The exterminator came to be called, jokingly, part of the case-management team. Common Ground installed Ms. Siegel, who is a nurse; it set up a health clinic and brought in a social worker.

In 2003, Common Ground and the Architectural League of New York held a design competition for the units, 175 to 300 square feet. They received 189 full submissions from 13 countries. A jury, including the chairman of the architecture department in the Harvard Design School, selected five winners. Two prototypes went on display at the Municipal Art Society last summer.

Among those who visited was Arthur Harttman, a 73-year-old Air Force veteran and former dance instructor who moved into the Andrews 13 years ago, drawn by the "old-timers." Mr. Harttman has become an admirer of the new Andrews House social worker, whom he calls the Princess and who recently helped him get a new set of teeth.

"Sometimes the Princess and I used to go to the nursing home, on Greenwich Street, and volunteer our time and dance with the old-timers," Mr. Harttman, rail thin with wispy gray hair, said in an interview. Offered a chance to go to the Municipal Art Society exhibit, he eagerly went.

"I thought it was great," he said. He liked the prototype called "The Ordering of Things" best. It was bigger than his current cubicle, which fits barely more than a cot. It had lots of shelves and a bed on rollers. The top half of the door could swing open — perfect for summer.

"They've done a wonderful thing for all us fellows here," Mr. Harttman said.

The first phase of the Andrews renovation will be completed this summer. Eventually, there will be room for 146 men, including the 48 current residents, who can stay as long as they like. New arrivals can stay for three weeks on their own terms; after that, they will be required to accept certain services, including housing-placement counseling. The charge will be $7 a night.

"We don't want to encourage the lodging houses to be permanent housing," Ms. Haggerty said. "But we see the need for them as a complement to other housing as a place for people who need a place to start. We need a much bigger range of housing options if we're going to find a place for everyone."

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

January 18th, 2007, 01:59 PM
January 18, 2007

Antiques Dealer Sues to Bar Homeless From Sidewalk

Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times

A man camps out on a heat grate at a store on Madison Avenue near 69th Street. The owner has sued to move him.


A Manhattan antiques dealer has filed a lawsuit against a small group of homeless people claiming that they are disrupting his business by using the sidewalk outside his high-end East Side store as a urinal, a spittoon and an occasional dressing room, according to the suit and the dealer’s lawyer.

The dealer, Karl Kemp, who owns Karl Kemp & Associates at 833 Madison Avenue near 69th Street, says he has put up with the group, in particular one bearded homeless man and his “island” of filthy belongings, for more than two years and hopes the suit will compel the city to have them removed from the area.

Besides seeking $1 million in damages — the dealer’s lawyer said he put in a figure for legal reasons — the suit also asks for a restraining order requiring them to stay at least 100 feet from the store. The suit notes that the antiques dealer is located “within the heart of New York’s most exclusive Madison Avenue shopping district,” with neighbors like Gucci, Chanel and Prada.

Mr. Kemp says that the dress and behavior of the homeless people has discouraged some people from going into his store. The suit, which was filed in State Supreme Court in Manhattan on Tuesday and was first reported in The New York Sun, identifies the homeless plaintiffs only as John Smith, John Doe, Bob Doe and Jane Doe.

The suit says that the group “can often be found sleeping on the sidewalk,” “consuming alcoholic beverages from open bottles, performing various bodily functions such as urinating and spitting,” and “verbally harassing or intimidating the plaintiff’s patrons and prospective customers.”

Mr. Kemp, who also has a downtown store on East 10th Street, says he has complained about the homeless people in front of the uptown store to the police and to the local merchant association, to no avail.

“My concern is the health of the man,” Mr. Kemp said in a telephone interview, referring to the homeless man with the beard he described in the suit. “Sometimes he’s out there in blizzard conditions, and you and I pay taxes in New York City and some of that is to maintain decent shelters. And he should take advantage of that.”

Allan Schiller, Mr. Kemp’s lawyer, said the lawsuit was a last resort by Mr. Kemp in an effort to resolve something he had been dealing with for two years.

Mr. Kemp, Mr. Schiller said, has even asked the owner of the building that houses the store to remove or reroute the heating duct outside the building to deter the homeless from seeking its warmth. But nothing has worked, Mr. Schiller said.

Shelly Nortz, deputy executive director for policy for the Coalition for the Homeless, said Mr. Kemp’s legal action was mean-spirited and that in her 25 years of working as an advocate for the homeless, she had never heard of a similar suit by an individual against a homeless person.

“I think it’s preposterous,” she said. “Until we see to it that every single homeless individual has a place to stay, this is our reality.”

Ms. Nortz also questioned the legitimacy of the lawsuit. “What law is it that these homeless individuals have violated?” she asked. “It’s not spelled out here. The complaint that they somehow occasionally occupy a space that is also home to Gucci and Chanel doesn’t mean that they’re breaking any law.”

Mr. Schiller, the lawyer, said: “They’re not really breaking any law besides being vagrants, and it’s my understanding that vagrancy really isn’t a reason to pick anyone up anymore. The fact is, they are creating a nuisance by standing in front of you constantly. You are not my guest. I did not invite you here. And they have attached themselves to my client’s property.”

Jose Perez, who works at Cesare Paciotti, a shoe store next to Mr. Kemp’s shop, said the bearded man who seemed to be the focus of Mr. Kemp’s complaints never bothered any of his store’s customers. “He has a very bad smell,” Mr. Perez said. “But besides that he causes no problem. We never asked him to leave.”

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

January 18th, 2007, 02:29 PM
Um, they are not breaking the law, untill they urinate or sleep there, unfortunately).

I do think the lawsuit has no real grounds, but it is also a reality that if the guy can't keep his storefront clean/free of "loiterers" or however yuo want to categorize them, what is he to do?

What did they USED to do?

Would I be allowed to stand in front of a deli after not being washed for weeks and let my "presence" be known to all inside or would teh owner be allowed to "escort" me away?

What line is there? And what is fair to both parties?

January 19th, 2007, 10:39 PM
Pauper and prince

Hobo has rich Madison Avenue pal

Sitting in front of E.
69th St. townhouse
(below) of tycoon
Edward Baron Cohen,
Roger Greenlee reads
Daily News story of
$1 million suit filed
against him by owner
of ritzy shop.



He may be a bum, but the accused Madison Ave. menace has a multimillionaire watching his back.

A day after an irate antiques dealer filed a $1 million lawsuit aimed at ousting a scruffy homeless man from one of New York's most exclusive shopping strips, retired real estate mogul Edward Baron Cohen called the legal move "bull----."

"Stop with the million-dollar suit," said Cohen, 89. "Tell the mayor to find him a place to sleep."

Cohen (above) allows
Greenlee to keep his
belongings and rest
outside his home.

Cohen has been helping the homeless man, Roger Greenlee, for more than a decade, feeding the 65-year-old leftovers and allowing him to stash his garbage bags full of belongings behind the front columns of Cohen's E. 69th St. brownstone.

Clad in a blue hooded snow jacket, dirty jeans and sneakers, Greenlee yesterday called the mogul "a good man."

"We've been friends for 14 years," he said of Cohen, who regularly made the Forbes 400 list of wealthiest Americans in the 1980s.

Cohen's cook, who gave her name as Irma, insisted Greenlee was no bother despite allegations in the lawsuit that he uses the sidewalk outside an elegant antique shop as his bedroom and toilet. "He's very nice, very polite," the cook said. "He's like a guard. Sometimes I see him standing, I give him food. He never asks for anything, never. He takes care of himself."

A male nurse who works for Cohen and his wife, Suzanne, said Greenlee was not the drunken lout antiques dealer Karl Kemp described in his lawsuit.

"He doesn't give us any trouble. He doesn't bother us, not at all," the nurse said, declining to give his name. "To me, he will say, 'Sir. Good morning. Good evening.'"

Known on the street as the Preacher, Greenlee is one of the three unidentified homeless men and one homeless woman whom Kemp is suing in Manhattan Supreme Court, charging they engage in "anti-social, offensive and objectionable" antics outside his shop at Madison Ave. and E. 69th St.

Greenlee's favorite spot is the steam grate below the window of Kemp's store. And no wonder.

On a day when temperatures dipped into the 20s, a Daily News reporter with a thermometer found temperatures reached 109.9 degrees at the grate.

When cops rousted Greenlee last August from a cardboard box on E. 70th St. and charged him with trespassing and disorderly conduct, he told them he hailed from Erie, Pa., police sources said. But he carries no identification.

Wrapped in a red blanket and squatting outside the door of Cohen's home, Greenlee said yesterday he started out as a farmer, worked as a glazier - and then God told him to preach in Manhattan about 14 years ago.

"I've always been homeless, for 22 years," he said. "I like it. Messiah was homeless."

Describing himself as a former Baptist, Greenlee said he was "all alone" in the world - and was not mad at Kemp.

"I like to be left alone," he said. "If I have to be conversating and have my picture taken, I'll accept it."

Then Greenlee resumed reading the newspaper accounts of Kemp's lawsuit.

Kemp, who could not be reached for comment, is not the only businessman in the well-heeled neighborhood who wishes Greenlee would leave.

"He's definitely around bothering people," said Shakeem Hodge, 25, a security guard for Worldly Things on Madison Ave., a few shops from the Preacher's favorite haunt. "I don't pay him any attention," Hodge said. "But there was this pregnant woman and he told her, 'I hope you burn in hell.'"

Originally published on January 19, 2007 (http://nydailynews.com/front/story/490035p-412641c.html)

© 2007 Daily News, L.P.

February 26th, 2007, 04:14 PM
Yahoo News/Associated Press

NYC's largest homeless shelter closing
By MICHAEL HILL, Associated Press Writer

CHESTER, N.Y. - Every day, a bus picks up homeless men off the streets of New York City and takes them 70 miles out into the countryside to a shelter, in a practice that has been going on quietly since the Depression, when homeless people were called Bowery bums and fresh air was the solution to just about all ills.

The 1,001-bed Camp LaGuardia is New York City's biggest homeless shelter — and the only one surrounded by farms and trees — but its very existence is probably a surprise to many lifelong New Yorkers.

Now the city is closing it down.

While 73-year-old Camp LaGuardia was born of good intentions and what was then considered progressive thinking, some activists disapprove of it as an out-of-sight, out-of-mind answer to the city's homeless problem.

City Hall says its decision to shut down the shelter was more practical: It is too far outside New York, and the city wants to move away from temporary shelters to subsidized housing.

The shelter opened in 1934 on the site of a women's prison. It was named for the city's exuberant mayor, Fiorello LaGuardia, a year later. The place was expanded greatly in the 1980s with the growth of New York's homeless population.

Old jail cells in the main brick building are still used to house older, frailer men, though most of the men are assigned a cot and a squat locker in dorm-style rooms in other buildings, some of which were built in recent decades. The rooms and halls are careworn, and some of the paint is peeling.

In the camp's early decades, the homeless men could rustle up summer work in the kitchens at the big Catskills-style hotels, grow potatoes on the camp's farm, even relax over beer at the tap room — yes, a tap room — though they were not allowed to get drunk.

Nowadays, some of the men work day jobs at places such as a chicken-plucking plant operated by a community of Hasidic Jews.

Homeless men who seek shelter from the city and are assigned to Camp LaGuardia can refuse, and go back on the streets, or they can seek a transfer. Once they are here, they can come and go from the 300-acre camp, but there are not many places to go. The commercial center of Chester, a town of about 12,000, is more than a mile down the road.

About a third of the men leave on the daily buses to New York City for medical appointments, housing searches or family visits. Some work in the city.

Mohamed Chakdouf, 58, lost his job as a concierge at a big New York City hotel, separated from his wife, became depressed, fell behind in his rent and was evicted. By 2001, the Moroccan immigrant was camping out in a park in Manhattan. Breathing problems made winters tough on the street, and he came here by bus one night in January 2005.

"First day I woke up I'm surrounded by mountains," he recalled. "I say, `OK, I have no problem here, but it's so far away.'"

Isolation is a big complaint among homeless men used to urban hubbub. Richard Berlly said he considered staging a fistfight to get kicked out. Celso Trinidad said the 90-minute bus ride back to the city is tiring, so he stays in his room studying maps of the city, hoping to get another job driving a bus.

"It's not a fun place," he said.

Patrick Markee of the Coalition for the Homeless in New York said the big problem with LaGuardia is that it is so far from the city. That makes it difficult for the men to look for jobs and housing or take advantage of other services.

Though LaGuardia was started for the right reason, Markee said city leaders found the shelter especially useful when homelessness soared in the '80s.

"The city expanded Camp Laguardia and made it into the largest homeless shelter in New York in part to sort of keep the homeless out of sight of the general population," Markee said. He commended Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration for "doing the right thing" by closing LaGuardia.

With a homeless population estimated at 35,000, the city wants to spend LaGuardia's $19 million budget on longer-term solutions such as subsidized housing with social services.

Robert Hess, city commissioner of homeless services, said the goal is to reduce the shelter population by at least two-thirds by 2009.

Hess said local opposition to the camp was also a factor in the decision to close the place. For decades, people have complained about LaGuardia men wandering into town, getting drunk, urinating in public and, once, slashing a woman.

Michele Murphy, a mother of two children who lives next to the camp, said: "You're afraid to have them play outside because you're not sure."

Still, some men have turned themselves around at LaGuardia.

Chakdouf has become a full-time liaison between homeless people and caseworkers. Berlly, 60, has come a full-fledged caseworker at LaGuardia.

A year ago, all of Camp LaGuardia's beds were full. The last new arrival came in November, and the camp is now down to about 360 men. The last will leave by May 31.

Orange County is buying the place for $8.5 million, perhaps for a senior-citizen dining center, voting machine storage, an office park or affordable housing for workers in the county, which is undergoing a housing boom.

Remaining staff members like Berlly are looking for other jobs. He is still interested in social work.

"I'm going to miss it," he said. "It's like a family, almost."

November 24th, 2007, 10:08 PM
'Shanty' Fire Kills Homeless Man In Queens


November 24, 2007

The Fire Department is still investigating a fire Saturday morning in a makeshift shelter in Queens that left a man dead and another person critically hurt.

Investigators say the flames broke out at Hillside Avenue and 175th Street in Jamaica shortly before 4 a.m.

They say the fire started on a fence and jumped to a shanty inside a construction site where a group of homeless people were sleeping, trying to stay warm. All but one managed to escape.

March 29th, 2010, 10:20 PM
Times Square’s Homeless Holdout, Not Budging


As long as there have been homeless people sleeping in Times Square, there have been social workers and city officials trying to persuade them to leave.

In the past, the homeless were offered a free ride to one of the city’s warehouselike shelters. These days, workers for nonprofit groups help people move into apartments, keeping track as the number of the chronically homeless in Times Square goes down.

According to their records, by 2005, there were only 55. Last summer, it was down to 7.

Now there is one.

His name is Heavy, and he has lived on the streets of Times Square for decades. Day after day, he has politely declined offers of housing, explaining that he is a protector of the neighborhood and cannot possibly leave, the workers who visit him every day said.

Yet they are determined to get through to Heavy, the last homeless holdout in Times Square.

“I just have this dream that all of a sudden something will snap, and he’ll say, ‘I’d love to have housing,’ ” said Amie Pospisil, an associate director at Common Ground Community, a nonprofit organization that conducts street outreach. “I don’t rule out that it could happen.”

Little is known about Heavy, even his full name. Heavy is a nickname, part of his last name, a fact he surrendered after more than a year of daily visits from workers. He declined to be interviewed.

According to neighbors and social workers, Heavy is a gentle presence, a quiet man who does not harass passers-by or panhandle aggressively. They say he may be mentally ill, as many of the chronically homeless are. An employee in a deli on Eighth Avenue said that he usually gave Heavy a few pieces of bread at lunchtime. Neighbors give him hot coffee, loose change, and warm clothing in winter.

“He is a sweetheart,” said an 82-year-old woman who gave her name as Nanny and stopped to talk near her home on 48th Street, where she has lived for 44 years. “He sees me coming and says, ‘Hi, Mommy,’ and I say, ‘Hi, honey.’ And I give him his quarter, and I go on with my business.”
The most recent annual estimate of the number of homeless people sleeping on the streets of New York showed an increase, but Times Square has been an exception.

The exact count of homeless people in and around the area on any given day can be subject to wanderings, the time of year, even the weather. But for years, outreach workers have done rigorous, round-the-clock counts of the people who are sleeping there every night, and they are confident they know who is there and who is not.

Heavy is the last member of what they called the Times Square Seven, the only homeless people remaining last summer out of the dozens they had been placing in housing for years. Of the seven, three men were regularly sleeping on the steps of churches.

All of them had been homeless for a long time — on average, 17 years.

One by one, from last September to January, the men were persuaded to accept housing. Except Heavy.

“I think it’s fair to say that we gave all seven people the same attention and effort,” Ms. Pospisil said. “Heavy is still there.”

The outreach teams had long since memorized his location and his habits.

For a long stretch, he had been camped out on Seventh Avenue, until a city sanitation crew disposed of his belongings. Then he found a new spot nearby, under the fire escape of a theater. Now he is usually seen around the corner of 48th Street and Seventh Avenue, a block or two from the heart of Times Square.

By day, Heavy is typically seen wearing a red knit cap, sipping coffee and smoking a cigarette, sitting on a makeshift chair near his black and red suitcase. At night, outreach workers often find him nestled in a thin cardboard box, near the scaffolding of a building under construction.

Heavy was far from alone on the streets of Times Square in the 1990s, when he began sleeping there frequently in the midst of a roiling mess of drug dealing, prostitution and crime.

“Times Square has always been this signpost for whatever’s going on in New York City, for good or ill, and when there was a very heavy homeless population, it all contributed to a larger perception that New York City had lost control of the public realm,” said Tim Tompkins, the president of the Times Square Alliance. “I think there was a time at the very beginning of the homelessness issue when it was like, let’s squeeze the balloon and get them out of the way.”

But tactics changed. Nonprofit groups began sharing information about the homeless people who were anchored in Times Square, gathering names, ages, medical conditions and the personal issues that might be keeping them homeless.

The street outreach teams from Common Ground and the Goddard Riverside Community Center, both nonprofit groups that hold contracts with the city, began maintaining close ties with the Times Square Alliance and the Police Department. More units of supportive housing and specialized shelter beds were opened up to the chronically homeless, as an alternative to the intimidating and sometimes unruly general shelter system.

And the more commercial, safer and more tourist-friendly Times Square slowly became less comfortable for the street homeless.

“Whether by accident or not, certainly over the last 10 or 15 years, the cleaning up of Times Square and the street traffic in Times Square may have been an issue,” said Stephan Russo, the executive director of Goddard Riverside. “It can be a little daunting for them.”

The area still attracts panhandlers, and a few emotionally disturbed people who occasionally draw the attention of security employees of the Times Square Alliance. This month, they intervened when a man began tearing flowers out of a planter.

The social workers at Common Ground said they had no intention of pressing Heavy to leave the streets. But Tim Marx, the executive director, said neighbors might not be helping in the long term by giving Heavy food and clothing.

Directors at Common Ground are considering posting one of their outreach workers to stay with Heavy all day, study his habits and movements, and talk to neighbors about what is best for him.

Rosanne Haggerty, the president of Common Ground, said she had known Heavy since at least 1990, early in the days when she was working to end homelessness in Times Square. In those days, there were more than 70 people sleeping in the area on a typical night.

“He’s kind of iconic,” Ms. Haggerty said. “He would leave for periods and then return, and some days we would actually succeed in getting him inside. But he has this fascination with the life in Times Square.”


April 9th, 2010, 08:29 AM
City Orders End to Sending Homeless to Illegal Houses


For years, homeless people were sent by the city to illegal boarding houses, places with crowded conditions, rows of bunk beds and vermin. For many of the buildings’ landlords, it was an easy way to turn a run-down house into a fairly lucrative operation — tenants were charged hundreds of dollars each month for little more than a mattress.

“There was a situation where individuals realized very quickly they could change their home into an illegal setup and make money,” said Christine C. Quinn, the City Council speaker.

On Wednesday, the city said it was going to act decisively to end the practice. More than 200 staff members in shelters run by nonprofit organizations and the Department of Homeless Services will be told to stop referring homeless people to buildings that have been found to be unsafe based on inspections by city agencies.

Nine shelters have been singled out for even closer scrutiny. Shelter staff members there will be ordered not to refer the homeless to buildings that have been the subject of any complaints, even if the complaints have not been fully investigated.

“It never was acceptable that people were ending up in the wrong kind of housing,” Bill de Blasio, the city’s public advocate, said on Wednesday at a news conference at City Hall. “This is really going to start to turn around a multifaceted problem — housing that hurts neighborhoods and creates that revolving door to shelter.”

City officials said that they had been cutting back on the practice for months, and that some homeless people had found their way to the illegal housing on their own.

Officials at the Department of Homeless Services said they would enforce the new rules by issuing fines to shelter providers that break them and by encouraging homeless people leaving shelters to file complaints about their new housing if it violated the law.

“I think we’re in a much better place for New Yorkers that sadly experience homelessness and end up in our shelter system,” said Robert V. Hess, the commissioner of homeless services. “We’re helping them move back into their homes in record numbers, and we want to make sure those homes are safe.”

Under the agreement the department made with the City Council, shelters will use data from the Department of Buildings, the Fire Department and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development to determine if housing is appropriate for referrals.

The announcement on Wednesday followed nearly two years of pressure on the Bloomberg administration from elected officials and advocates for the homeless.

The Coalition for the Homeless (http://www.coalitionforthehomeless.org/), an advocacy group, issued a report (http://coalhome.3cdn.net/ddc8dd543ded03ff12_lpm6bh1cr.pdf) in January 2008 charging that the Bloomberg administration had placed hundreds of homeless people, many of them mentally ill, into hazardous and illegal boarding houses.

Dozens of these boarding houses are in use, typically in poor neighborhoods in Brooklyn and the Bronx. They are often dangerously overcrowded, with as many as 60 people living in a two-family house filled with bunk beds.

Lindsey Davis, a director at the Coalition for the Homeless and the author of the 2008 report, described conditions that she said she had recently observed at overcrowded boarding houses.

In one building, Ms. Davis said, an external wall had collapsed while people were living inside. One room was filled with 12 bunk beds.

“There was mold covering the walls, and the floors and ceilings were not structurally sound,” she said, adding that people were sleeping in beds placed within feet of stoves.

More than 9,000 people enter and exit the city’s homeless shelter system each year, and potentially thousands of them have gone to the boarding houses, Mr. Hess said. There are about 7,600 single adults in the shelter system, and the outfits that run the shelters are under heavy pressure to help homeless people find housing and leave the shelters.

If the homeless are no longer referred to illegal boarding houses, they could end up staying longer in city shelters, a possibility that Mr. Hess did not discount.

“I’m more concerned that we do what we can to ensure that people don’t move into unsafe and inappropriate conditions,” he said. “I think the guidance that we’ll be offering to all of our providers helps ensure that that will not happen.”

in January 2008 charging that the Bloomberg administration had placed hundreds of homeless people, many of them mentally ill, into hazardous and illegal boarding houses.


April 14th, 2010, 05:58 AM
Plan Would Require Homeless to Work to Qualify for Rent Subsidies


The Bloomberg administration is planning to require more homeless families to get jobs in order to qualify for rent subsidies, city officials said Tuesday.

For the last three years, the city had provided certain homeless families with vouchers good for one or two years of free or steeply discounted rent. Since the program began, more than 18,000 families, and some single adults, have received the so-called Advantage vouchers, more than 7,500 of them last year.

Most of those families qualified for the vouchers because they had already found work, and as a result were eligible to pay only $50 toward their rent each month for up to two years. But families who had become the subject of child welfare investigations were granted an even-more-generous voucher, good for up to two years of free rent — because of their vulnerability.

Now the Bloomberg administration is seeking to require that nearly all families have at least one member with a job before they receive a rent subsidy. Participants would also pay more toward their rent — rather than $50 a month, they would be required to pay 30 percent of their income during the first year of the subsidy. During the second year, they would pay 50 percent of the total rent.

The administration’s proposal is awaiting approval by the state, which pays half the cost. The city pays 37 percent and the federal government the rest.

“The goal here is to create a rental assistance program that helps people move out of shelter and provides an appropriate government subsidy,” said Linda I. Gibbs, the deputy mayor for health and human services. “Anybody who can work, is capable of working, and we should help them work.”

Ms. Gibbs added that the administration also planned to reinstate a requirement that homeless families who have income pay rent while they are in shelters.

There are more than 36,000 people in the city shelter system, including nearly 8,500 families with children.

Ms. Gibbs said it was unclear whether the change would save money in the $141.8 million plan, but she said she hoped that it would help more families find jobs and permanent homes. She added that New York has an “extraordinarily generous” shelter system and housing subsidy program.

But some of the organizations that run homeless shelters for the city said they were worried that the new rules might keep families in shelters even longer — particularly families with children who have been deemed to be at risk of neglect or abuse. Those families, monitored by the city’s child welfare office, would now be required to find jobs to qualify for a subsidy.

“In general, it may make moveouts slower because it’s difficult to find work out there,” said Colleen K. Jackson, the executive director of the West End Intergenerational Residence, a shelter for young mothers. “Jobs are not easy to come by.”

This is the second time in three years that the city has made significant changes to its rental assistance program. A previous and short-lived version, called Housing Stability Plus, required participants to be on welfare. The Advantage program, which began in 2007, has a stronger focus on work.

“From a family perspective, if a parent or caregiver is employed, the family is that much more likely to remain stable and stay in permanent housing,” said Gordon J. Campbell, president and chief executive of United Way of New York City, a former homeless services commissioner.

Some advocates for the homeless were quick to criticize the second change announced on Tuesday: the administration’s plans to revive the state-mandated requirement that working homeless families pay rent while they are in shelters. City officials said they expect to issue notices to families in September that they will be charged rent.

The plan was first attempted a year ago, but halted after only three weeks because of what a city official called “technical issues.” When it is revived again, the Human Resources Administration, instead of the shelter providers, will handle rent collection.

Steven Banks, the attorney in chief of the Legal Aid Society, who is a frequent critic of the administration, said its approach to the issue “seems to elevate ideology or philosophy over reality.”

“In the midst of an extraordinary economic downturn, to be going after families who are earning minimum wages to pay the cost of shelter instead of encouraging them to save their meager wages so they can move out, in the end, is going to cost more,” Mr. Banks said.

State Senator Daniel L. Squadron, a Democrat representing a Brooklyn and Manhattan district, said that he supported adding a provision to the state budget that would prevent the city from charging rent in shelters.

“The goal for homeless families is moving out of homelessness,” Mr. Squadron said. “Charging rent is beyond perverse.”

Ms. Gibbs described the rent requirements as modest. A family with an annual income of $10,000, for example, would pay $36 a month to live in a shelter; however, a family with $25,000 in annual income would pay $926 a month. Eighty percent of homeless families would be exempt from the requirement.


May 20th, 2010, 06:39 AM
Dept. of Homeless Services Commissioner Seth Diamond backtracks on plan to make shelters pay rent

BY Frank Lombardi

The city's new homeless commissioner reported progress Tuesday in talks to drop the controversial requirement of making working homeless pay rent to stay in shelters.
Instead, the city would substitute a requirement for the homeless to deposit a portion of their earnings into a savings account, which they would get to keep.

"I'm pleased to report that the negotiations [with state officials] are looking positive, in the sense that I think we will be able to get there," Commissioner Seth Diamond of the Department of Homeless Services testified during a City Council budget hearing.
But he cautioned, "As you all know, from sometimes painful experience, nothing is done in Albany until it's done."

The Bloomberg administration began pushing the rent requirement last year, citing a 1997 state mandate. But after an uproar from homeless advocates and the media, the city didn't fully implement the policy.But officials had said as recently as last month that it was still in the works.

Questioned Tuesday by Councilwoman Gale Brewer (D-Manhattan), Diamond said the rent requirement was misunderstood as a revenue-raising measure.

"The money was never about revenue for the city," he said. "It was really about building good behavior and providing a way for families to learn that they would need to contribute something out of their income."

He added, "If we can do that in a better way with savings, while allowing families to save money that they can access once they leave the shelter, we're happy to do that."

Diamond said details remain to be worked out but did not elaborate, other than to say that state law would have to be changed to allow the savings account alternative.

"It's good news," said Patrick Markee, senior policy analyst for the Coalition for the Homeless, which had strongly opposed the rent requirement. "We always said we would support a savings program. That's what they [working homeless] do already, they save to get out of shelters."

Diamond was named homeless commissioner four weeks ago, after serving as a ranking official with the city's welfare agency, the Human Resources Administration. He is a staunch workfare advocate.

"Every adult in the shelter system who can work must work and we are prepared to work closely with the HRA on a range of services to assist them in gaining employment," he testified yesterday.

http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/brooklyn/2010/05/19/2010-05-19_city_backtracks_on_plan_to_make_homeless_in_she lters_pay_rent.html?r=ny_local&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+nydnrss%2Fny_local+%28NY+Loca l%29#ixzz0oSt1eY4g

May 20th, 2010, 07:59 AM
Sadly, I think that some of these guys should pay a nominal rent.

Why? Not for revenue, but respect. People just do not respect things that are given to them for free. But most have a HELL of a lot more respect for something they worked and paid for.

All you have to do is look at some of the tenement buildings and watch the peoples attitudes. They just do not feel it is up to them to clean up after themselves, take care of where they live and the building that houses them. If that building is a wreck, they will get moved to another, so who cares?

Odd, those that have for nothing fail to see what they have, but those forced to pay for nothing (slumloard units) would kill for the opportunity....

May 20th, 2010, 01:19 PM
People just do not respect things that are given to them for free. But most have a HELL of a lot more respect for something they worked and paid for.

Don't be so sure that it works out that way. There's avery interesing article in a recent New Yorker on that subject ....

The Poverty Lab (http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/05/17/100517fa_fact_parker)

More on the article: The Challenge of Public Policy Research (http://sogweb.sog.unc.edu/blogs/mikesblog/?p=1951)

May 20th, 2010, 01:53 PM
Loft, I will give it a read, but I am referring to the success of programs like Housing for Humanity, where the buildings that people pay for and work on tend to last much longer than ones set up for free.

This does not apply to all cases, but to quite a few in my own experience (as observer.......).

Edit: I can't get in w/o subscription... I did not read if it was free or not, but whatever.

My statement still stands, people have a tendency to respect things, at least in Western Civilization, that they work for rather than what is available for free.

Another example? Purebreds versus shelter pets. You pay $700 for a cat you are much more likely to treat it better/forgive its misgivings than the one you got for free. (You = 3rd person plural, not YOU you Loft!! ;))

May 21st, 2010, 08:55 PM
"The Homeless" is an umbrella for a vast array of people in circumstances of homelessness. Many are transitional homeless who are able to reestablish themselves. Others struggle with substance abuse, dementia, mental illness, . . . and the list continues. Approaches need to be broad-based and able to direct clients to the services that best fit their situation.

When I volunteered at the homeless shelter in South Bend, the working clients had a portion of their wages set aside into savings accounts for future deposits for rent and utilities (and in some truly inspiring cases, a down payment for a house). Although my present responsibilities are to college students, I have not only temporarily housed homeless students here at Newman House but I also employ an older woman who presently lives in "God's woods" (her words). A young homeless mother (now in housing) stopped me on the street and asked if my students could tutor her for her GED. Non-profit agencies advise me and take referrals, in acknowledgment that only a community-wide response can hope to begin to address crises as varied as health, economy, personal tragedy, or crime. One size can not fit all.

It is extremely difficult to devise institutional responses to people whose circumstances are so widely divergent. I applaud the city's Homeless Services, while recognizing its shortcomings. Personal dignity and hope are key as people struggle to recover.

June 5th, 2010, 10:58 PM
Perhaps this thread (http://wirednewyork.com/forum/showthread.php?t=21019&highlight=homeless) I created should be incorporated here?

New policy doesn't charge homeless with a job to stay in city shelters - it makes them save cash

By Adam Lisberg

Homeless people with jobs won't have to pay rent to stay in city shelters under a new deal announced Friday - but they will have to start saving money to get their own apartments."Instead of paying us fees for shelter, the money they save will be theirs when they leave the shelter," Mayor Bloomberg said. "We hope the experience will improve their financial literacy and show the value of saving."

The new policy, expected to soon become law in Albany, will require shelter residents with jobs to set aside a portion of their income in interest-bearing accounts.

Existing law requires the city to charge rent to the homeless. But when it tried to enforce the long-ignored rule, it sparked outrage among legislators and homeless activists.

"With the economy in shambles, the least among us shouldn't have to pay for survival," said Assemblyman Keith Wright (D-Harlem). "I can't think of anyone that has ever said, 'I can't find an apartment, maybe I want to take up residence in a homeless shelter.'"

Bloomberg said only 20% of shelter families would pay when the policy starts in October, saving a total of $2 million a year.

A family making $10,000 a year will have to save $36 a month, and as their income rises, so will the payment.

"As families leave shelters, they will have a much greater chance of staying in permanent housing for a long time," said state Sen. Daniel Squadron (D-Manhattan/Brooklyn).

http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/2010/06/05/2010-06-05_dump_shelter_rent_law_for_savings_plan_mike.htm l#ixzz0q2P60lv5

February 25th, 2011, 04:26 AM
Twitter can be wonderful :).

A Life on the Streets, Captured on Twitter



Derrick Wiggins, a homeless man who has a Twitter account, posting in
a Starbucks in Manhattan.

Derrick Wiggins, 44, began his daily tweeting at 5:41 Wednesday morning, and it wasn’t about the quality of his French roast coffee or his favorite “American Idol” contestant.
It was to let his roughly 3,800 followers know that he had woken up safely in the New York City Rescue Mission, a drop-in shelter on Lafayette Street, and eaten breakfast there.

His next message, at 6:03 a.m., outlined his immediate plans: “It is going to be a cold day my plans are to minimize the amount of exposure to the cold by making use of the subway.”

Mr. Wiggins’s Twitter handle is @awitness2011 (http://twitter.com/awitness2011), and the profile on his Twitter page explains that he is “tweeting from a prepaid cell phone.” It identifies him as “A native New Yorker and a Giants fan. Homeless.”

Mr. Wiggins is one of four homeless men who were given prepaid cellphones so that they could create a Twitter following, as part of a project started by three recent college graduates who are interns at the BBH advertising agency in TriBeCa.

“We had the idea to use social media to help out the homeless,” said one of the interns, Rosemary Melchior. “One goal was to increase the interaction between homeless people and the community around them.”

The agency gave her and her two partners, Robert Weeks and Willy Wang, $1,000 and this directive: “Do something good, famously.” They created a Web site called Underheard in New York (http://underheardinnewyork.com/), whose goal is to “help homeless New Yorkers speak for themselves through Twitter.”

Mr. Wiggins’s messages include no links to the latest online article, no witty use of juvenile texting lingo, no gratuitous pop culture references. But through his brief, quickly typed bursts every hour or two, his followers gain a glimpse into the life of a New Yorker with no home.

By 9 a.m. Wednesday, he wrote that he had found warmth on the subway.

“The trains are warm and clean, a suitable refuge from the cold,” read a message posted at 9:13 a.m. He posted a photograph he snapped with his phone, of a homeless man sleeping on the subway, behind a shopping cart full of belongings.

“Who’s son, brother, uncle or father is he? What services are available?” Mr. Wiggins wrote.

Mr. Wiggins typically writes a dozen times a day, often posting a “good night” from his bunk bed in the shelter room he shares with dozens of other men.

“I do the best I can do to share my experiences with the people who are following me,” he said in an interview at a Starbucks on West 14th Street, minutes before an interview with a job counselor at a nearby help-center.

Clear-eyed, shaven and dressed like a professor, in a brown overcoat, tan scarf and gray wool cap, he looked presentable even by corporate cubicle standards. He said he had saved a few bucks to have his clothes cleaned, because he had job interviews coming up.

He has accumulated followers from Brazil, Italy, France, Australia and other countries, and as he spoke, his phone kept vibrating with new messages from followers. He quickly tapped out responses to each one and resumed conversing. Mostly, he receives messages of encouragement, he said, which help him avoid a spiral into dejection.

There have been days when he has not posted updates because he lacked a place to charge his phone. But typically he writes about his job search and simple dispatches about how he copes on the street. On Tuesday morning, before a job counseling session, he wrote: “I have arrived at the HRA Waverly Center located at 12 West 14 Street NYC, NY. I am waiting for the doors’ to open. It is very cold.” And later: “During the day I walk in the sun light.”

Mr. Wiggins said he grew up on the Lower East Side. His mother was a drug addict who died when he was young, he said, and by the time he was an adolescent, he was living on the streets and getting into drugs and trouble. He dropped out of high school and later served three and a half years in state prison for an assault, he said.

He became a born-again Christian in the 1990s, and at one point attained stability with a wife, a home and a steady job as a counselor at a Lower East Side homeless agency. But it didn’t last, he said, and soon he was alone again and on the street. After being unable to pay the rent on his last apartment, in Jersey City, a year ago, he stayed with a friend for a few months and then began staying at the drop-in shelter, where he lines up every evening, in time to get himself a bed.

Asked to reflect on how Twitter had affected his life, Mr. Wiggins said that “just the fact that somebody is listening” had helped him persevere. He said, “I’ve received what I need to keep going.”


February 25th, 2011, 01:55 PM
That is actually a very interesting idea.....

I only worry that as gratifying as a following is, it can also be devastating when "followers" try to hurt. I have seen it quite often on Web BBS's, it can happen here as well... :(

February 26th, 2011, 01:50 AM
^ It's nice just to go with the good vibes sometimes, Ninja ;) :).

Underheard in NY (http://underheardinnewyork.com/)

In a time when communication is all around us, we felt it was necessary to give a voice to the people who needed it most. Between Jan. 2009 and Jan. 2010 the total number of unsheltered individuals within New York City rose an estimated 34%. We gave Danny, Derrick, Albert and Carlos- four homeless residents of NYC- prepaid cell phones and Twitter accounts in order to include them in our global community.

November 25th, 2012, 04:08 AM
The Blueprint

Post-Sandy, New York’s homeless problem is even more daunting. One building in Brooklyn shows how it might be solved.
By Justin Davidson

(Photo: Rendering courtesy of © Cook + Fox Architects)

A few weeks ago, I watched a man who had spent much of his life living in doorways and cardboard boxes shamble into the sun-washed lobby of a new building on Hegeman Avenue in Brownsville, dig an I.D. card out of baggy jeans, swipe through the turnstile, and take the elevator up to a modest but clean room equipped with a bed, an ample window, a closet, and a kitchenette. He was home.

Sandy has aggravated an already brutal housing crisis in New York. With 3,000 adults living on the streets, and another 47,000 people forced into homelessness by the economy, shelters are overflowing, and the city pays exorbitant rents for emergency lodgings. The danger is that temporary fixes and short-term squalor could become the new status quo. But housing the homeless, not in shelters but with dignity, is a less intractable challenge than it seems. Buildings like the Hegeman point the way. They are the product of an extensive network of nonprofit organizations and private developers that has accumulated enough experience, enlisted enough first-class architects, and slowly changed enough attitudes to put a solution within reach.

Built by the nonprofit organization Common Ground and designed by Cook + Fox (which also did the Bank of America tower), the Hegeman demonstrates how much quality architecture a scant budget will buy. Constructed for a modest $43 million, it is the best building for blocks, a handsome brick arrangement of 161 energy-efficient studios, a gym, support-staff offices, and a computer lab, all wrapped around a landscaped garden. There’s no mystery to making low-cost housing this well designed: Hire better architects. “You can always take the same ingredients and make a better cake,” says Alexander Gorlin, who designed another elegantly frugal Common Ground project, the Brook in the South Bronx. Prodded by a combination of recession-induced need and the profession’s resurgent current of idealism, many top architects now chase such public-spirited jobs.

These architects and developers have the tools to tackle homelessness on a vast scale, but every project must slog through a bureaucratic quagmire. Fortunately, housing activists now have a powerful weapon with which to prod government officials into smoothing the way: data. Research by NYU’s Furman Center shows that, far from blighting a neighborhood, high-quality supportive housing can actually increase property values. Multiple studies have shown that placing disabled, addicted, chronically sick, and mentally ill homeless people in facilities like the Hegeman saves millions in Medicaid payments. The numbers are proving persuasive. New York State has started channeling $75 million a year in Medicaid money toward supportive housing, and it’s trying to persuade the federal government to add more.

In a city as dense as New York, land can be even harder to come by than money. (That’s why the Bloomberg administration’s affordable- housing program depends heavily on coaxing private developers to sprinkle market-rate high-rises with low-cost apartments.) But while New York has few expanses of land left for massive housing developments, plenty of smaller lots are scattered around the city. To free them up, NYU urbanism professor Mitchell Moss proposes taxing fallow land at a high enough rate to prod owners to build now or sell to those who will.

The idea that it might be possible to conquer homelessness is so foreign to the city’s bureaucratic apparatus that officials from the Department of Housing Preservation and Development wouldn’t hazard a guess as to the resources it would take. Common Ground offered some back-of-the-envelope calculations, though, and they’re hardly terrifying. Putting up 100 new Hegeman-quality buildings with units of varying capacities would cost roughly $100,000 per apartment in public funds, with the rest coming from private lenders. The city’s homeless problem, in other words, could be largely wiped out at a cost to taxpayers of roughly $1 billion—which also happens to have been the total bill for Barclays Center.


February 21st, 2013, 07:35 AM

Bloomberg, Homeless Advocates Spar After Mayor Denies Anyone Is 'Sleeping On The Streets'

Michael Bloomberg said Tuesday that "no one is sleeping on the streets" (http://www.ny1.com/content/top_stories/177301/bloomberg---no-one-is-sleeping-on-the-streets-) in New York City, NY1 reports.

The comment-- in response to a New York Daily News article that said city shelters were turning away families during frigid winter temperatures (http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/heart-ice-mayor-change-code-blue-policy-leaving-homeless-cold-article-1.1266176)-- was quickly condemned by homeless advocates who have long decried Bloomberg's handling of the city's homeless. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/carl-siciliano/bloomberg-homeless-youth-shelter-beds_b_1478028.html)

It also came as a shock to everyday New Yorkers who, looking out their window or on their way to work, can see homeless people sleeping on the streets.

"It's a remark that just seems so out of touch with the everyday reality that New Yorkers see," said Patrick Markee of the Coalition for the Homeless.

In fact, the remark directly contradicts the city's own data estimating more than 3,200 people sleeping on the streets (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323495104578314790495093864.html?m od=googlenews_wsj) in 2012.

It also comes just days after an appeals court sided with City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, striking down the mayor's policy (http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/court-sides-quinn-homeless-article-1.1264772) of requiring homeless individuals to prove their homelessness in order to acquire temporary housing.

Critics said the mayor skirted proper procedure in making the policy change that left the homeless with nothing but a "death sentence." (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/28/new-york-city-council-lawsuit-bloomberg-homeless_n_1117258.html)

Those that have come to Bloomberg's defense believe such requirements are a necessary move in order to relieve overcrowding in shelters. In 2011, the homeless population rose to over 41,000 individuals, marking the first time the city exceeded the 40,000 mark. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/09/new-york-city-homelessnes_n_1084081.html)

Bloomberg previously got into hot water for another comment regarding the city's homeless. In August, the mayor said New York City shelters offered a "much more pleasurable experience than they ever had before (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/24/bloomberg-homeless-shelters-more-pleasurable-nyc_n_1827290.html)."


February 23rd, 2013, 11:13 PM
We can't get rid of this midget mayor fast enough.

February 26th, 2013, 12:56 PM
I'll remind you of that when we see who's next.

To the original point. I see people sleeping on the streets. It's usually the same crew of mentally ill crack addicts who don't want to go to the shelters. Unless you can force them off the streets, they're going to stay there.

February 26th, 2013, 07:17 PM
Are you proposing a fourth term?

February 26th, 2013, 07:31 PM
Well that's the recipe. View them all as a crew of crack addicts, and you don't have to feel any responsibility.



In more ways than the usual, we are becoming a throw-away society.

February 27th, 2013, 12:11 PM
No. This should not be a lifetime job. But I'm not happy with any of the likely replacements. Are you?

Are you proposing a fourth term?

February 27th, 2013, 12:15 PM
These people should be the VA's problem (and I'm serious about this), not the city. It's their job to take care of the vets. Then again, mix PTSD and crack (and/or heroin, meth, alcohol, etc.) and you're going to have someone who's going to be difficult for anyone manage, and likely to be uncooperative.

Well that's the recipe. View them all as a crew of crack addicts, and you don't have to feel any responsibility.



In more ways than the usual, we are becoming a throw-away society.

February 27th, 2013, 12:54 PM
You spend a lot of time deflecting the discussion away from what you said.

Neither of us said who should take care of them. You said you knew who they were.

February 27th, 2013, 12:55 PM
"In more ways than the usual, we are becoming a throw-away society."


February 27th, 2013, 01:20 PM
LOL. Wish I'd thought of that.

February 27th, 2013, 01:48 PM
When you see the same people over and over again for years, you start to get the idea.

Are you saying the hardcore, living on the street, long term homeless are not usually some combination of mentally ill, alcoholic, and drug addicted?

You spend a lot of time deflecting the discussion away from what you said.

Neither of us said who should take care of them. You said you knew who they were.

February 27th, 2013, 06:22 PM
Are you saying the hardcore, living on the street, long term homeless are not usually some combination of mentally ill, alcoholic, and drug addicted?You quoted what I said. What don't you understand?

February 27th, 2013, 06:45 PM
And I don't edit a post 24 hours later, after I've made three more on the same thread.

Maybe you should be figuring out what you're saying.

March 1st, 2013, 05:09 PM
BBMW, the only thing that you said that was true was that the alcoholics/addicts are the ones that are the most VISIBLE.

That does not mean that they are the majority. The ones that do not WANT to be homeless, that want to try to get out of the cold, are not spending their time camped out on the corner all boozed up. Many work part time, find shelter on-and-off, or have other things (like children) they need to care for and are not the ones we see screaming at a mailbox.

Tip of the iceberg is a really pervasive metaphor.